41. Farewell to all that

On 12th March 1953 Jack and Evelyn boarded the TSS Veendam of the Holland-America line en route to New York.  In the absence of correspondence from this period (the reason for this is explained in the next instalment), Jack’s detailed diary entries give a flavour of their first fortnight back in the United States.

TSS Veendam
TSS Veendam (Holland-America Line)

* * * * *

Excerpts from Jack Metcalfe’s diary:

12 March 1953:  LANDED IN USA 7.30 breakfast,- then a flurry of packing, assisted by steward.  Long waits for immigration.  Over at last and landed Hoboken about 12.  Maggie met us, left dollars etc + then went off.  We got our baggage into a couple of cabs + and got it  + ourselves to Hotel Earle for some thirty dollars!  A nice suite, but expensive, + I got the rate reduced from $8 to $7 a day.  Phoned Maggie, who will call us on Sat morning.  ‘Phoned May [Mayers], Review, Davison.  Supper at “Southern Inn”.  Back to hotel.  Bed about 10.30.  Very rainy.

13 March:  Still raining in morning.  E + I breakfasted off coffee + doughnuts at Waldorf Cafeteria.  Wrote letter to Lt Cdr St Pierre + Mr Gaszinki [sp], + air-mailed them.  Went Dept of Naturalizati0n + Immigration, 70 Columbus Avenue, then to Grand Central,-where enquired re fares etc to Los Angeles.  Then walked to Cooks  + got remaining English + Dutch money changed.  Back by subway to 14th St + found E in Waldorf Cafeteria, where we had lunch. Back to hotel where had nap.  Set out for May’s at 3.30 + reached there at 4.  Cocktails, in which Lan later joined us.  E, May + I then dined out,-v. good steak.   Returned to May’s, + finally left at 9.30 and walked back to hotel.  Bed.

14 March:  Breakfast.  Called in vain on Charlotte [Wilder], who is still in hospital,-then called in vain on Hazel + on Fanny.  Back to hotel.  Maggie called and gave me cheque for remainder of Fund money.  After she had left E + I took laundry to “Joe’s” at Bleecker St.  Lunch at Cafeteria.  Back to hotel.  Doze.  Went Davison’s, then on to Bernice Elliott’s, where we had dinner.   Back at hotel by about 11.  Bed.

15 March:  Wrote letter in morning.  Nap after lunch at cafeteria.  Typed out copies of testimonials + of house-statement.  Dinner at Hazel’s.  Walked back to hotel through pouring rain.  Bed.

16 March:  7.30 breakfast at cafeteria.  Arrived late at dentist’s (Dr C I Stoloff).  Paid him $35.  Came back to hotel.  Out again and air-mailed letters to Uncle Jim and Mr Coleman (3s/9d cheque enclosed).  Cashed Margaret’s Fund cheque at Amalgamated Bank, Union Sq, + then put most of it into new a/c at Corn Exchange Bank, 7th Ave + 14th St.  Went 25 Broad St, + had lunch with Walter who will send $75.  Back at hotel by about 3.45. Nap.  Supper at Cafeteria.  Bed.

17 March:  Paid hotel $40.70. Breakfast at cafeteria.  Posted letter to Maggie.  Went to No 1 Wall St.  Left testimonials for photostating.  Dr Stoloff 1.30 to get dentures OK.  Back to hotel.  E + I to 5th Ave Hotel for cocktails with Elmer Rice.  Called on Fanny Sammes [sp?] at 27 Greenwich Ave.  Then had supper at Southern Inn.  E unwell.  Back to hotel.  Bed.

18 March: Air-mailed cheque for £2 to Hobson.  Went downtown and saw Mr Beamand’s secretary, + then made enquiries at Hanover Bank, 70 Broadway, 7th floor re sending money to England by “letter of delegation”.  Collected Photostats + came back to hotel. Lunch at Waldorf cafeteria.  Walter’s cheque (for $70) had arrived and I paid this in to my a/c at the Corn Exchange Bank.  Collected laundry and returned to hotel.  (Our luggage has been brought up from “cellar” for repacking). Had nap till about 5.30.  E wrote letters while I smoked.  Supper.  Bed.

19 March:  Took train tickets to Grand Central for changing to later date.  Lunch at Cafeteria.  Nap.  Dawn and Cully came at 5, with whisky.  Supper.  Continued re-sorting and –packing of baggage.  Lan came to hotel with car at 9 and took luggage (+ us) to May’s,  Left 7 pieces there.  Cocktails.  E + I walked back to hotel.  Bed.

20 March:  Cheque $25 from Hal Bynner via Margaret. Have nasty cold.  Got haircut after breakfast.  Went Grand Central,-but tickets not ready yet.  Visited three teacher agencies:-Stein (no good), American + Foreign, and Albert.  Lunch at a Horn + Hardarts.  Went one more agency (Miss Watson).  Then back to hotel.  Nap.  Supper at cafeteria.  Bed.

21 March:  Breakfast.  Bought small trunk on 3rd Avenue.  Walked back to hotel with it.  Went Grand Central and changed tickets OK at last.  Posted letters from E to Miss Sillcox + to Hal Bynner.  Bought Dutch tobacco.  Back by subway + bought little parcels [?] for dentures.  “Home” to hotel.  Nap.  Supper at Dawn Parnell’s.  Joe Gallacher came in later.  Back to hotel,- bed.

23 March:  Went Grand Central + arranged for luggage (6 pieces) to be called for tomorrow.  Paid $12. Back to hotel,-then called on literary agent, Margaret Chrintra [?] at 37 Madison Ave (Madison Square hotel, Apt 1220).  Left MSS with her.  Back to hotel, + found E had already lunched.  I went out + had lunch at cafeteria.  Back to hotel.  E set off with her MSS to Mr Russell, literary agent, + returned about 4.30.  After supper we took two more pieces of baggage (purple-lined & Hazel’s) to Lan + May.  Walked back to hotel.  Bed.

24 March:  Drew money from Corn Exchange bank.  Saw Mr Beamand at 10.30 + sent $40 to my Hampstead bank via Hanover Bank, 70 Broadway.  Very rainy.  E had had her lunch when I returned, so I lunched alone.  Van came for our 6 pieces of baggage at about 2.10.  Maggie called at 2.30.  I let at 4 + got receipt from Hanover Bank.  Returned to Hotel.  E + I had supper at cafeterial.  Went to May’s.  Left 2 packages.

25 March:  Wrote + posted letter to Westminster Bank, (air-mail), + to PO Station O, 217 W 18 ST re re-direction + letter from E to Paul, c/o Doubleday’s.  Registered at British Consulate.  Confirmed spelling of ‘Christie’.  Called on Mrs Walcott at St Luke’s School re teaching post notified by Albert Agency.  Finished packing + topping.  Lunch of stuffed pappers.  Taxi to Grand Central.  Left on ‘Pacemaker’ at 3 pm. ‘Dinner’ of a sandwich each + coffee cost us $2.50 plus 40c tip. Very little sleep.

26 March: Arrived Chicago 7.30 am.  Checked some baggage at Dearborn Station + breakfasted off bacon + eggs at ‘The Streamliner’.  Returned to Dearborn Station.  Wired Dr. Vincent.  Posted letter from E to Hal Smith.  Smoked in waiting-room. Left Chicago on ‘El Capitan’, 5.45.  Drunken man a nuisance.

27  March: On train all day.  Drunken man got off at Albuquerque.

28 March:  Breakfast at 6.  Got off train at Los Angeles at 7.15.  Contacted Huntington Hartford driver.  Got 5 of our 6 pieces of luggage from station, + were driven to the Foundation.  Had coffee.  Unpacked.  Lunch brought to our cottages at 12.30. Rang up station + found we have to pay $41 excess to get wardrobe trunk. Nap till 5. Supper at 6.  Got 2 blankets,-but heat not functioning.  E wrote ‘Min Tom’, + I put the letter in mail-box. Bed

JM diary 12 Mar 53
Jack Metcalfe’s diary entry for March 12, 1953

* * * * *

Jack’s financial problems were not resolved with the final payments from the Evelyn Scott Fund, and before they could leave London for New York, it was necessary to Jack to clear the debts arising from his ownership of No 26, a process that continued well into the 1950s as the attached correspondence shows. Inflation since the late 1950s has increased the value of these amounts:  £100 pounds in 1958 would be worth roughly £2200 in today’s money.

Warning to readers in the US:  At the time of this correspondence  British currency was “old money”:  pounds, shillings and pence.  There were 20 shillings to the pound, and 12 pence to the shilling, and these were written in the form £pp.ss.pp, the components separated by full stops.  In order to make sense of the figures it is probably easiest to ignore all figures after the first full stop.
In July 1952, Jack enclosed the following statement of his financial liabilities in a letter to Margaret DeSilver.  This includes a reference to the “Carnegie Fund”:  the charitable payment made to Jack and intended to cover the expenses associated with their residency at the Hartford Harrington Foundation in California.

* * * * *

Statement of debts which must be cleared before leaving England

Sheet enumerating specific debts which must be cleared before we can extricate ourselves from stay in England:

Gas owed at the moment—further quarter’s bill will  not be due until Sept 18th

129.18. 9

Repair of wall:  still owe Hobson

55.17. 6

Repair of roof:  still owe Taylor

10. 0. 0

Repair of floors removal of shelter—this is the work now under way, the estimate is approximate but can’t be more and is being done with proven real concern to cut the costs when possible Colman

45. 0. 0

Income Tax, approximate—have asked chartered accountant for statement—Preston

130. 0. 0

370.16. 3

or approximately $1033

Apart from Income Tax, could probably just manage to “get away” with the payment of half of debts now deferring remainders for instalments sent when we are free of the house.  Income-tax, however, as you probably realize must be paid in full and is in arrears.  Remember this house is taxed on its rentals and the frozen rents began this situation.

The Carnegie fund $500 was disbursed on house-debts and instalments on rugs and a few other things for renting as soon as it arrived, recently.  We haven’t bought any clothes or personal articles of apparel etc yet.  I am still wearing the shoes too worn-out to re-soled.  This is typical of conditions during these eight years since 1945.

Half the payments on non-income or tax debts plus full income tax as above would be about 250 pounds or $700.

* * * * *

After their return to New York Jack engaged in an effort to finally clear his debts and to sell the property that had proved to be such a millstone. The following correspondence between Jack and Mr Brimblecombe of Match & Co, the managing agents whom Jack had retained for years to manage the house and its lettings, set the finances out in great detail.  This correspondence highlights the consequences of Jack’s rash decision to install, unmetered, gas central heating and hot water in all the flats:  As Mr Brimblecombe points out several times, the cost of the gas represents the greatest part of Jack’s indebtedness.  The correspondence refers to the “furnished flat” (the flat occupied by Jack and Evelyn and rented, furnished, to tenants on their departure for the US) and the “unfurnished flats” or the three flats which were let out to tenants.

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

Match & Co, Ltd
14 & 15 College Crescent
South Hampstead, NW 3
October 22, 1959

W J Metcalfe, Esq
The Benjamin Franklin Hotel
222 West 77th Street
New York 24, NY USA

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

re:  26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

Thank you for your letter of the 21st instant which I showed to Mr Jellis as he has been managing the property for a number of years, and I cannot do better than enclose his comments.

You will see, therefore, that you are under a misapprehension as to the costs involved in running this property and unfortunately the net income is nothing like £697 as stated by you.  As you will see from Mr Jellis’ report, the true net income is approximately £328 per annum.  This is subject to income tax and does not take into account any repairs of a major nature, replacements or repairs of furniture in the furnished flat, or loss of income whilst the furnished flat is vacant, and in considering these figures you must really bear in mind we are now obtaining for all of the flats  to-day’s true market rents and there is little likelihood of the net figure ever being increased.

In working out the figures, we have only allowed £100 a year for repairs which, on a building of this size, is small and if building costs do increase it might mean a further reduction in the net income.

Unfortunately, you are not now in a position to purchase the Freehold.  The Company who did buy the Freeholds from the Church Commissioners have now sold sufficient and are not prepared to consider disposing of any more.  This means that you must treat your investment on an investment basis only and bear in mind that the present term has only 18 years to run.

Taking into account the repairing covenants under your Lease, and here again I must emphasise that it is a full repairing one, this means complete re-decoration at the end of the term.  Depreciation is extremely high.  Taking a figure of only £2500 as the purchase price, this would mean, even ignoring interest, that this capital sum would be reduced each year by £140 and no tax allowance is ever made on a sinking fund.  In other words, if one takes the figures as supplied as being correct, you have a net income of £328 and with income tax at the standard rate, say £110, this leaves you approximately £200 a year and if yo deduct the loss of capital each year of £140 it seems that your true net income is negligible.

I do feel, as I have stated in my previous letters, that it is in your interests to see as if you do keep the property I cannot see any real income for you in the years to come.

Yours sincerely,
L S Brimblecombe

[The following is the attachment referred to in the letter above.]

 re:  26 Belsize Crescent

SECTION I

(a)  The rent of the furnished flat includes rates and water, central heating and constant hot water.

Net Rent   £409.10. 0

Less rates and water

£ 60.14. 5

1 qtr of central heating and hot water

110. 0. 0

£170.14. 5

Net income

£248.15. 7

(b)  The increased rents for the unfurnished flats are exclusive of rates and water, but inclusive of the cost of hot water and central heating.

SECTION II

(a) Electricity  The cost for the past year has been £2.10.0.  This, of course, covers only the landings and staircase.  Electricity in respect of the furnished flat is paid by the tenant.

Ground Rent  £32.2.0.  This is the gross amount before deduction of tax.

Water Rate  Furnished flat only—£4.12.5 per year.  This is the only charge payable by the landlord.

Insurance  £14.10.0.  This includes insurance of the furniture in the furnished flat.

(b) Gas  The new rents for the unfurnished flats include the cost of hot water and central heating, but are exclusive of rates and water.  The net increase, therefore, is not as much as £226  per year, as mentioned by Mr Metcalfe.

(c) Rates  The sum of £28.10.0 is for one half-year’s general rate in respect of the furnished flat.

SECTION III  Income Tax  The amounts shown as having been paid are agreed, but Mr Metcalfe’s accountants have not yet settled all tax liability for periods beyond 1945/55.  However, we have recently paid on the accountant’s instructions £142.1.9 representing the tax they have agreed for the years 1955/56 and 1958/59.  They are still negotiated with the Inspector of Taxes concerning the years 1956/57 and 1957/58.

SCHEDULE OF INCOME AND EXPENSES submitted by Mr Metcalfe

INCOME  The rent of the furnished flat is £409.10.0 (the sum of £419.8.0 includes telephone rent, which is not included in the schedule of outgoings).  The total income is, therefore, £1079.10.0.

OUTGOINGS

General rate of furnished flat

£ 56. 2. 0

Water rate furnished flat

     4.12. 5

Gas

  440. 0. 0

(All borne by landlord.  New unfurnished lettings are inclusive of the charge for gas.  The Housing Repairs and Rent Act 1954 does not apply to these lettings.)
Cleaner

32.10. 0

Cleaning material

4.10. 0

Insurance-building and furniture in furnished flat

14.10. 0

Staircase lighting

2.10. 0

Ground rent and garden rent

32. 2. 0

(Gross figure before tax deducted.)
Commission—Unfurnished flats: 5% of £670.0.0

33.10. 0

Furnished flat 7 ½% of £409.10.0

30.14.03

£751. 0. 0

This leaves a net income subject to tax of £328.0.0.

* * * * *

To L Brimblecombe, Match & Co

September 21, 1959

Dear Mr Brimblecombe,

Re: 26, Belsize Crescent, NW3

I.  I thank you for your letter LSB/JMC dated 8th September 1959, but am somewhat aghast at the figures given, and would need clarification of certain points before reaching a decision.

The position now as compared with the position just before I left England in ’53 has been improved by

(a) Letting of furnished flat at £419.8.0 (Since, previously, I occupied it myself “rent-free”

(b) Increased rents under Rent Act, gaining me £226.

(c) Recent termination of mortgage, relieving me of £210 p.a.

These three improvements total £855.8.0.

From ’39 to ’53 the house remained “solvent”, at least/.

I am getting £419.8.0 for the Garden Flat; and I wasn’t then (i.e. before leaving England).  I am getting an increase in rents of £226; and I wasn’t then.  I am relieved of the £210 mortgage; which I wasn’t then. . .

II.  Notes on certain specific points in attached list

(a) My figures for Electricity, Ground Rent, Water and Insurance are those for ’52.  Electricity and Water may now be higher, but not Insurance or Ground Rent.  Regarding Ground Rent, I used to pay Messrs Willett a quarterly sum of £4.9.3.

(b) GAS (and most importantly)
Under the Housing Repairs and Rent Act, 1954, tenants pay the increase in cost of services over (in my case) the 1939 figure.

III.  Apart from Schedule A and from Repairs etc, there should be, according to my figures, a yearly profit of nearly £700.

IV.  Certainly there will be some considerable expenses, the heaviest of these, for painting, re-pointing etc, having to be met quite soon, say during the next three years.  Putting these really major expenses at, say, £540, this would mean, on average, £180 pa for the next three years, cutting down profit, during those next three years, to £410 (£590 les £180) pa.

In ensuing years the repair expenses should not be so heavy—say £100 pa—leaving a yearly profit of £490.

My profits over the next eighteen years should therefore be:–

3 years at £410 £1230
15 years at £490 £7350
£8580

If these figures are anywhere near correct I should think more than twice before selling the house.

V.  It remains my hope, especially, to accumulate enough to purchase, if possible, the Freehold.  You will recall that it was offered me, shortly before I left England in early ’53, for £1300—and how I wished I had been able, then, to acquire it!  (See my letters of Novr 16 ’52 and Feb 13 ’53, and yours to me of Novr 18th, ’52.)

However we return to England we would not necessarily re-occupy the Garden Flat.  Our idea might well be to find cheaper accommodation in the neighbourhood, leaving the Garden Flat at least for a time still let,—and while also I resumed employment at my old school.  The figures I have given would thus be left undisturbed.

VI.  To sum up:–

The points I stress and on which I want enlightenment are:

(a) Gas has always been the most worrying item of expenditure,—and your quarterly statements, of course, do not show, in detail, how the gross gas-bill was diminished by the Tenants’  Contribution of £165.1.10.

Before the passing of the Act my tenants paid me, under a “gentleman’s agreement”, a voluntary contribution towards the constantly increasing gas expenses,—which contribution was, however, always considerably less than what I might equitably have asked.

Since 1954 the contribution has become mandatory instead of voluntary, and I would like to be assured that my tenants have actually been paying this since ’54, as this is not, of course, apparent in your quarterly statements.

Quoting again from your letter to me of 1st July 1954, in which you told me how the provisions of this Act applied to a particular instance:–

At the present time Mrs Hopper” (one of my then tenants) “is paying £30 per year towards the cost of services, and we therefore propose that the rent should be increased by a further £11.5.6.”

There is, further, the question of possible extravagance on my tenants’ part while I am not there to control, in person, the setting of the gas-clocks.  The price per unit no doubt has gone on rising, but not, I hope, the consumption, in therms.  Your quarterly statements, naturally, do not tell me this.

(b)   The question of acquiring the Freehold (dependent on all of the foregoing)

With all good wishes,
Yours sincerely,
W J Metcalfe

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

October 22, 1959

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

re:  26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

We have been carefully considering whether it would be in your interests to sell the above.  We would like to draw your attention to the following:

1) Even with the increased rents the true net income is extremely small.  From our figures the gross income is about £1080, but the outgoings are over £700 a year and after payment of Schedule ‘A’ Tax, we doubt very much whether you receive more than £150 a year on the property, and this does not take into consideration any sinking fund for loss of capital or for dilapidations at the end of the term.

2)  The present Lease has now only 18 years to run.  It is, therefore, a rapidly decreasing asset and it might be that in a few years time the lease will be so short that you would be unable to see even if you so desired.

3) It must also be borne in mind that we  are dealing with a house now which is about 80 years old and the cost of maintenance is extremely high.  Owing to the very low rents obtained since the war, it has not been possible to repair the house and it will be necessary to spend quite a large sum on it during the next few years to put the house in good condition.  As you know, the Freeholders are already insisting that the exterior be repainted and from a brief inspection made by our Surveyor, there are several other items in need of attention, such as pointing, repair of window frames, doors, re-decoration of the staircase etc.

In other words, apart from ordinary maintenance, there is in our view a figure of something like £500 to be spend on the house during the next two or three years.  This means that the whole of the income is going to be swallowed up for at least three years and then you are left with a house with only a 15-year term.

We gather that your Accountants are sending you a full report as it is their view, as well as our own, that you would be very wise to try and find a purchaser.

With regard to price, it is a little difficult to say but we should imaging that the house in its present condition would be worth something in the region of £2000.  Thus sum could, of course, be invested by you with 5-6% interest and you would have no worries and your capital would remain in tact.

Perhaps you would like to consider the matter and let us have your views.

Yours sincerely,
L S Brimblecombe

 * * * * *

To L Brimblecombe, Match & Co.

October 5, 1959

Dear Mr Brimblecombe,

Re:  26, Belsize Crescent, NW3

Further to my letter of 1st October, which replied to one only (re painting estimates) of your two letters dated 25th September, I now take up again the question of the possible sale of the house, with which your second letter was concerned.

I see, of course, from Mr Jellis’s figures, that I was wrong in my own estimate of income, but before coming to a decision would like to make the following queries.

(a) Gas remains the villain of the piece.  It appears that the Rent Act, in my case, took away with one hand much of what it had given with the other.  The Rent Act increased my rents by £226 but deprived me of the £41.5.6 per unfurnished flat collectable from tenants under the Housing and Repairs Act 1954.  I had had no idea until now that this was so, and it does certainly rather upset the apple-cart.

(b)  Considering the fact that (with a present total gas-bill of £440) no less than £110 per flat, for this one item, must be borne by the landlord, I feel that, from the landlord’s point of view, the present rents are uneconomic.  In the instance of an unfurnished flat let at £225 virtually one half of his goes in gas alone,—and worse, of course, if gas-prices still increase.

My now unfurnished lettings, after the passing of the Rent Act, were for a period of three years, now beginning to draw towards its termination.

What are the prospects of an increase of these rents when the three-years period has elapsed?

Other landlords, besides myself, who provide central heating, will be feeling the pinch of exorbitant fuel-costs and will undoubtedly have to raise their rents; so why not I:  Since I bought the house, the gas-bill has more than quadrupled itself!

(c) None the less, the position now, as compared with the position in early 1953 when I left England, should show the following improvements:

(i) £226 increase in rents under Rent Act
less the £125.16.6 formerly collectable from three flats (at £41.5.6 per flat) under the Housing & Repairs Act 1954

£ 102. 3. 6

(ii) Net income, by Mr Jellis’s figures, from furnished flat .

£248.15. 7

(iii)  Relief from mortgage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

£210. 0. 0

£560.19. 1

I still cannot quite see (without at all contesting Mr Jellis’s figures) how so much of this gross gain of £560 odd has been absorbed an nullified by other, adverse, developments.

(d) Agreeing, however, the figure of £328 as the net income for the whole house, subject to tax, and calling the tax £100 pa, a “net-net” income of £228 pa would remain.  Eighteen years of this would represent £4104.

(e) The approximate figure, mentioned in your letter of September 8th, of £2000 as a selling-price for the house “in its present condition” would be disappointingly low.

If I did sell, my intention would be to leave the capital intact (and gathering utterly safe interest) until I returned to England.  I should then plan to use the money, or most of it, in purchasing some smaller place in, or within easy reach of, London (even as far out, perhaps, as Southend or Brighton, though I hope not).

Please forgive these personal details,—but the feeling of eventually having our own roof-tree is, of all things, most important to me.

For a somewhat higher price than £2000 (when the painting job is done that, anyhow, should increase the value of the house) this might be possible.

I should be deeply obliged to you if you could give me, quite unofficially and as a personal favour, even the roughest kind of idea as to the possibilities of purchasing a small freehold for, say, from £2000 to £2500.

With all good wishes,
Yours sincerely,
W J Metcalfe

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

November 10, 1959

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

Re:  26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

As you know, we act for the Freeholders of the above and they have instructed us to put forward an offer of £2250 for your interest, subject to contract.  They will be paying our fees so this figure would be net to you.  They have also asked us to state that they would be quite prepared to delay completion if this would suit you, say, until next June.  This would, therefore, give you the benefit of the rents for another six months.

I do not know if this is their last work but I would be only too pleased to approach them again to see if I could get a slightly better offer, though I did not think they would exceed £2500.

You will remember that I have written to you fully on several occasions stating that in my view it would be in your own interest to sell, especially having regard to the fact that the income you receive is now very small and you are faced with the fact of having a very short leasehold property which will depreciate rapidly if you retain the premises.

I hope by now you have received a full report from your Accountant and I await your instructions,.

Yours sincerely,
L Brimblecombe

* * * * *

To L Brimblecombe, Match & Co

November 14, 1959

Dear Mr Brimblecombe,

Re: 26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

I.  Many thanks for your letter LSB/JMC dated October 22nd 1959, which I am sure gives a very clear, fair and well-considered picture of the position.

In view of all you say I have now decided to seek a purchaser for the property at a price of £2500 (Two thousand, five hundred pounds).

Supposing the £2500 to be obtained, I should do as you suggest,—invest in 5% gilt-edged.  I could then, as you also point out, realise at any time after we returned to England for the purpose of buying a property.  It was never my idea to re-invest in property now.

II.  Meanwhile, and if the house is still unsold for £2500 near the time when the present unfurnished letting-agreements will expire, I do think we should very seriously consider the question of increasing the rents.

I am most indebted to you for the careful thought that you have given to the matter.

Yours sincerely,
W J Metcalfe

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

Match & Co
November 17, 1959

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

re:  26 Belsize Crescent

Thank you for your letter of the 14th instant which crossed my recent letter.

I am pleased to say that I have spoken to my Clients and they have instructed me to say that they are prepared to pay £2500, subject to contract, and I gather from your letter that at this figure you would like to proceed.

Perhaps, therefore, you would let me know the name of the Solicitor who will be acting for you and also when you would like completion.

With regard to the re-investment of the capital you may be aware that most Local Authorities, including the Hampstead Borough Council, are now offering 5½% and this, of course, is not only gilt-edge but you are in a position to withdraw your money at any time.  As a matter of interest I have asked the Local Authority to send you full details, although naturally it is up to you to invest where you think best.

I await to hear from you.
Yours sincerely,
pp L S  Brimblecombe

* * * * *

It appears that the house was finally sold in late 1959, although there is no information as to the eventual buyer who probably decided, due to its poor condition and the likely cost of maintenance if it were to be kept as a dwelling house, to sell the house to a property developer.  In any case, when I decided in 2005 to visit Belsize Crescent to see the property for myself I was surprised to find not a spacious Edwardian family dwelling on a generous corner plot but a 1960s block of flats bearing the uninspiring name of “Akenfield House”.  A sad end to part of London’s literary history.

26 Belsize Crescent - google maps
Site of 26 Belsize Crescent [Google street view–image taken July 2017]

 

 

 

 

 

40. The house at Number 26.

The finances of Jack Metcalfe’s property at 26 Belsize Crescent were the main reason for the poverty experienced by Evelyn and Jack in not only their day-to-day spending but in financing their return to the United States. This brief summary of the relevant aspects of British housing tenure will make these more intelligible to an American audience.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of property ownership in England: “freehold”, where ownership is of the building and the land upon which it stands; and “leasehold”, where the owner has title to the building, but not the land:  the land is leased from a landowner and on which an annual rent (ground rent) is paid. Leasehold has its origins in feudal land ownership: the 17th century saw reforms to this system, and the wealthy institutions of the time, the Crown, the Church of England and the colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge acquired much of the land. The Church and the University Colleges in particular owned large tracts in London and as this land was developed into housing, the ground rents payable by the eventual owners (“leaseholders”) of these dwellings provided the landowners with significant income.

26 Belsize Crescent was a leasehold property, and the ground rent was payable to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England (the “Church Commissioners”). However, Jack not only owned the building but, as a landlord, had certain statutory responsibilities to his tenants, mainly keeping their flats in good repair. Further, because of the severe housing shortage during and after the war, the Rent Restrictions Act was brought in to protect the rights of tenants, including restrictions on the circumstances under which rents could be increased. Broadly, it was not possible under the Rent Restrictions Act for Jack to increase his tenants’ rents, even with rising costs and the need to pay for repairs to bomb damage.

When Jack bought the property with the intention of converting it into four flats and using the rental income from the flats on the three upper floors to subsidise their living expenses, he made a major error in installing gas central heating and hot water throughout the property. It was normal at that time for there to be individual coin-operated meters (“shilling meters”) in flats, calibrated to not only recover the cost of the gas used but also an element of profit for the landlord. Jack did not install these separate meters. At that time, central heating was an expensive novelty, and inclusive central heating and hot water in a rented flat almost unheard of: the tenants must have enjoyed this luxury at Jack;s expense. Because of the Rent Restrictions Act, he could not recoup the rising cost of this luxury by raising the rents.

Evelyn refers on a number of occasions to the threat of eviction from their home. Jack’s debts could have resulted in his being taken to court. If a court had found that he was liable to pay, and his creditors were not willing make any arrangement for payment over time, it is possible that the court could order the house be sold and the debts paid from the proceeds of the sale. This is not the same as being evicted, and although the Metcalfes could have stayed in their home until such time as a sale went through, the end result, of losing their home, would have been the same.

This story begins as the Evelyn Scott Fund has been opened, and Jack has secured a 6-month residency at the Huntington Hartford Foundation in Pacific Palisades, California.

26 belsize cres
Jack standing in front of 26 Belsize Crescent, London NW3

To Margaret DeSilver

26 Belsize Crescent
June 8, 1952

My Dear Maggie,

Further to my last, I still see no exit from an indefinite impasse (I hope not too prolonged) until we can get just straight enough here, on this side, to flit.  This has always, unfortunately, been an integral and unavoidable part of my attempted return to the States, and the necessitarian order (read backwardly as it were from effect to cause) is as follows:-

(i) To return I must get a fresh visa.

(ii) To get a fresh visa I must satisfy the consul more fully, he says, about “means”.

(iii) To satisfy him I must have the flat in what I should call (to you, not to him) a “minimum lettable” condition; and, also, pay off income tax and all non-postponable debts.1

Some debts I could, by guile, run away from temporarily and settle later, out of rent from the flat etc.  Others I could not.  For instance our move could not be carried out so nocturnally and stealthily that it would not be observed, for instance, by the builder who repaired the wall, and by another who has recently repaired part of the roof; and literal fisticuffs on the doorstep might ensue.  The gas bill of £170, if I had not to wait for, possibly, a further six weeks or so for the crediting to my account of the Carnegie money could just be met by that; but by the time it is credited a further quarter’s gas bill will have come in.  Tenants’ rents are absorbed by Rates (over £200 a year) and mortgage (also over £200) and by water rate, electricity, insurance, etc.

I plan to evade (temporarily) as much as I possibly can (while still presenting some sort of show to the consul) and make a get-away as soon as my visa is granted; and as soon as I can be in a position to give reasonable notice at the school (I can’t just run out on them because I must have a good testimonial; otherwise the chance of teaching jobs in US is killed).  The consul, as preliminary to the further consideration of my application for a fresh visa, will no doubt want to know the amount which Evelyn has in the Fund;—but even if it were a million I should still have to make some sort of minimum and, as I say, guileful settlement here in order to make the first physical steps towards a move.

The minimum boat fare, I have found out, is £57 each for just the passage; but what the fare from New York to Pacific Palisades is I have yet to ascertain.  One stipulation of the Huntingdon Hartford’s granting of the Fellowships was that we should each be medically examined; and this would be done in New York.

At the moment (and thanks entirely to the Rent Restrictions Act) we are completely hamstrung financially.  I have tried for three years to sell the house and had no offer

I hope these difficulties may be surmounted.  I feel that, so to speak, we are, thanks to your really noble help dear Maggie, three quarters of the way there;—but the remaining quarter of the way (actually the first quarter) has these problems, which, indeed, I am not exaggerating.

Very much love, from
Jack

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

June 9, 1952

Please, oh, please read this with Jack’s letter of today, carefully as soon as you have it—there really are reasons!

Maggie darling: 1952 Now November 7 months since sent

Will you please believe that the factual letters like this in which explicitness is requested are not “nagger’s” letters and are implicitly as filled with the signs of gratitude as the letters we went before this which were just the registering of our emotional out-going!

We are not made of dough, putty, or india rubber; and we can’t at one and the same moment be kicked in the arse as author: and congratulated on our distinguished “pasts”.  I couldn’t go west to Pacific Palisades with everything of greatest importance up in the air and accomplish anything whatever.  To suggest it seems to be defeating every generosity to us.

The other thing about California is that I would rather—again—drop dead in my tracks where I am, than put six thousand miles between myself and every human I love most bar Jack himself, except temporarily. 1952 November—return East must be guaranteed or aim lost

Jig and Paula have moved to otilostrasse 22, Graefelfing bei Munich  Jig and Pavla have no money to come here from Munich.  I had hoped on their arrival some means would be found for allowing us to meet again here.  But the few hundred miles between us here, will already—as far as boat fares go—be three thousand when we land in New York.  And in California, unless one is fully guaranteed—job in the East, lectures for Jack, or any comparable method—the return fare to the East, one is likely—very likely my dear Mag and this really is a most serious problem—to repeat, in California, a marooning such as we have endured here, and with Jack’s house and his tenure on it such as it is, six thousand miles further off.

Any lacks in this letter please blame on the fact that the day the good news came I had to go to bed with an attack of combined “grippe” and bladder irritation.  I had the last similar experience soon after I arrived in London in 1932.  The aches and pains were so persistent that Jack’s medical uncle called in a consultant who specialized in such things.  But he was a good doctor in my view as he just said go to bed and stay on a light diet for a while—and that was all.  But that cost five pounds so I am now preferring to utilize the same advice, as that was twenty years ago and I never had any serious recurrence of any such complaint since.

We hope to arrive very well again and present NO problems in health or—with books—no serious problems in money.

Love Evelyn

Marion is trying to help again with second-hand clothes.  Still have not had money to alter coat—sent 3 years ago—so just hope. What to do to make flat habitable is some problem. We also have to buy trunks—mine collapsed completely, and I also have not even a change-purse and need bag for Passports.  And again shoes as these cannot be mended.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

[June 29, 1952]

[First two pages missing] I am bothered to know what to do know what can be done by way of finding us a roof should we arrive in the autumn when people are just returning to town.   I would prefer to be anywhere we were most likely to see Jig and Pavla. But we will have to ask Pacific Palisades for a postponement it now seems, anyhow, and we don’t yet know when Jig and Pavla are likely to return home.  Everything is still up in the air, so that decision at our end is slow, as we know it must be at yours.

Some of the details might be worked out on our arrival in New York were we sure of a roof for some weeks, and—first of all, of course—sure of enough money to cover the situation as it is by then.  We can’t move from here, however, until the most essential things are done and the renting of the flat arranged-for.  We would like American tenants if there are any.  Because we hope to rent the flat vultures all trying to peck, as Jack says

But if you don’t lose interest in us Maggie darling we will keep our dander or pecker of what-you-will up and won’t succumb to discouragements that CAN be overcome.   This business of not allowing us to earn anything by normal methods has to be stopped somehow or we can’t win.  I do think we deserve to win out and with Jig and Pavla, and that the winning will be the victory of Margaret De Silver and her generous real heart and imagination is the truth.

Your really loving and grateful
Evelyn for Jack

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 4, 1952

Maggie darling:

I hope you don’t blench at the sight of a letter from me!  But everything has been left so vague and “in the air” as to the fund that we would appreciate any specific clarification. And though Jack calls you “Mrs Atlas” and we both know you can do just so much, I think it is necessary that you and fund contributors have the full complete truth, so that no one need be under any misapprehensions as to why we dont sail as soon as asked.

I mentioned a rotten despoilation of carpets by mould and fungi.  These were good carpets intact, of better quality than can be bought now and in any case would cost a fortune to replace.  But we thought that our troubles were ended when we removed these, and I sandpapered the unpainted boards, covered them with dryer and stained them.  And has it not been that wainscot required mending we would have remained in ignorance of the catastrophic fact that was revealed when the boards—one or two at first, then others—were taken up.  The two rooms attacked were devasted [sic] underneath.  Although the flooring superficially appeared okay, this horrible white paddy stuff—it grew fungi here and there on top—had destroyed the undersides of half the boards in one room and all in the other; half the wainscot in one room and all in the other, and half a window-frame.2

It now eventuates that this same thing has attacked about ninety percent of all the houses in Hamstead, and is most commonly encountered in those with gardens.  Apparently it was unknown before the war: and though I twice before heard the word “dry-rot” mentioned by workmen, no one elucidated it as a serious danger or said that this single type of mould produced it in this serious degree.  The joints under the rotted boards, also, have rotten in part, and two articles of furniture and two pieces of baggage—all saved we hope and think by creosote treatments and dryer—also had slight touches of it.  It really is shameful that the house-owners have not had public information and warnings on this subject.  As there has been so much of it there should be brochures circulating telling people, and informing them of safeguards.  As it spreads rapidly when neglected, had we known the danger-signals a few months ago we might possibly have saved most of the lumber, instead of a smallish part. The floor was wrongly constructed in the small room, as concrete was laid on most of it and the boards over that, and the circulation of air is death to this fungi and mould.  And this has figures, also, in the room in which the lodger was, and where there should have been ventilation bricks underneath on the side where the mould started

This may make dull reading, Maggie my dear, but you will realize its practical import to us.  Four pounds went on dryer and stain wasted by me, in my ignorance, on those rotten boards.   As we had no money to do everything at once we had hoped to have a tenant in or arranged for before we were put to heavy expense.  The common sense of the very excellent builder who is working here and is the most decent one we have met here in Hamstead has suggested the [air raid] shelter brick can be used to concrete the rotten portions of the other floor and so save money by combining the jobs.  He is really scrupulous in this respect and we are grateful to him for actually concerning himself with this aspect of our situation.  But when we will be able to get everything straight enough to leave the house we haven’t so far any idea.  There are the debts Jack has mentioned to clear up and they will be more slowly paid off because of this.

Of course I suppose—considering the retrospects of hardships—we might have known it.  A crisis was due as soon as we had any hope of renting at last and getting out and possibly home.  I still say possibly—!  Jack was almost in despair about it a few nights ago, but feels a little better now there is a very moderate estimate and the small pieces of luggage attacked seem likely to be saved.  But it has been a hard blow.

He also has to go to the dentist’s to “celebrate” the Fourth of July, and this is like an ultra bit of cruelty in view of the number of problems pending.  Of course we wish some of the fund money could be applied to this—but of course there must be enough to cover going home if it is to help us in our objective.  But in any event, I feel you and Waldo and Lewis and Hal Smith or anyone who is helping should know we are stuck and why and won’t be able to leave until Jack has more money from some source.

All we can ever say is that our gratitude is genuine and profound.

Everyone who knows of the fund is full of praise for you.  We will never be able to offer any return except as authors, and so to me the fund itself makes it the more essential that we find publishers and some method of continuing to write here.  This is the sort of happier life we would like to have Jig and Pavla with Cyril and his present wife share—our being there helping them too.

Our love Evelyn for Jack too

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:
July 17, 1952: Letter from Maggie to say $500 being sent.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver


July 18, 1952

Maggie my dear:

I hope you have had some restorative rest from all worries already, because I cannot possibly avoid pressing you for help and even positive information as to the fund for me, and what we are to expect in regard to money and going home.

Tooth-pulling coincided!—Jack’s!—Do you wonder I say life for us is still hell! Waldo should be ashamed not to have acknowledged Jack’s letter about “Island in the Atlantic”!

Perhaps, because you have done so much already, you feel, at moments, the one way you can safeguard your peace of mind is to temporarily ignore everyone’s distress.  But we are—also temporarily I hope—in worse chaos than ever before; income tax arrears are pressing Jack again rather frighteningly; the house down in the flat is still torn to bits by the removal of the floors and shelter and work left half-finished; we have, within a week or two at most, to write to the Huntington Hartford Foundation something definite as to when or whether we are to utilize their invitation and what to say about the request for postponing it; we can’t make any Consular moves about Jack’s re-entry permit and his re-application for it, until we know how much money will be available for me and so of possible use for both when we arrive until you and the contributors to the fund are willing to be candid.  I suppose it isn’t much, but I really meant that we must know positively or it remains like waste as far as I go.

I hope you read my letter before this describing bloody fungi which attacked the floor boards in rooms that had insufficient ventilation in the under bricks, and been made worse by my dread of trespassers which has become such that I often keep windows shut when they would be better open, because I could almost scream at the recurrent sight of any Hamstead’s rotten, ratty, nuisance-making riff-raff.

This fungi causes dry-rot in wood and carpets.  When the two good carpets and underfelts were attacked and thrown away, some wainscot attacked was torn out and the truth discovered.  The removal of two floors necessitated rubble and to save money the builder tore down the shelter.  This has left the reception hall open at last—seventeen by ten added to the house.

This 17 by 10 space, when you saw the place last year, was blocked.  Now the entrance to the flat is airy and spacious and there is room for a dining table—we have an old second-hand bought for a guinea before the war, but no chairs—and one also has perspectives of the rooms and can see their arrangement on entering.

This would greatly assist rentals.  But of course mid-way in work that showers the whole flat with cement dust—it began two weeks ago—something happened about arrangements to get it done rapidly, and it drags on yet.  And we cannot yet pay for re-doing the walls which are damaged by the shelter’s removal, and were already damaged in the smaller room re-floored with cement and have been damaged decidedly by the work in the larger room cemented.

Our idea is to do what we can and see whether any renter would pay some in advance to complete the job and deduct it from the rent—but it would have to be slow as the rent must pay the gas heat.

WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEGUN THE RE-FLOORING BUT THAT fungii spreads quickly—we saw that on the carpets—and it was endangering the house.  It has—as I wrote you—attacked ninety percent of Hamstead’s flats with gardens where ventilation was imperfect.  Trespassers have compelled me to do precisely the opposite of what is normal to me; work with closed windows and artificial light.  Jack likes artificial light but I never in a closed room in my life before.

If we had ever been able to buy sash curtains and replace at least some of the iron bars that were removed from the windows by Hamstead borough when the front gate went, on the basis of “free exits during bomb hits”, many of the dilapidations, including the fungii, might not have occurred: nuisances contributed more to this even than worry.  I have written clearly before in my life when worried, but I cannot write where nuisances persist.

We will clear out the house somehow if we can just pay the most pressing bills and KNOW where we stand in respect to going home. Then—as Jack has said—send small sums here as we can to keep up maintenance until it can be sold and not just taken away at a total loss, as has heretofore been the case.

Poor darling Maggie I don’t want to ask more but WHAT are we to do?

Love and gratitude prevail—Cyril will agree yes, darling Maggie, I don’t want to ask more—but what in hell’s name are we to do?  Our lives and the lives of Jig Pavla Denise Fredrick Mathew Julia are actually economically at stake.  Evelyn

* * * * *
To Margaret DeSilver

July 18, 1952

Darling Maggie-Margretta-Margaret-Maggie:

I have just written the letter that I send with this, and the fund money is now announced.  Your letter respecting it was in the afternoon mail.  But on reflecting on the value of full, clear information on every situation and circumstances whenever it is possible to provide it, I have decided to send on the account of the work on the house which can now be concluded no doubt, and have re-emphasized the matter of the guarantees as to the job for Jack and some guarantees as to publishing us both which will make our livings certain before we sail.  It must be both—it requires both more than ever in these days to make authorship a go practically when people are as serious as we are.

Yes we have to land as authors, even with the teaching job secured in advance.  We can’t go on miscast in limbo.

You are superlatively fine about everything Maggie darling.  If I can find any way to make very public our specific great indebtedness to our courageous, loyal, generous, perspicacious and most, most genuine friend, Margaret De Silver, I will certainly do so.  Jack with me will enjoy doing so when we can.

Yes, positively some small hotel—private hotel—is, as you say, the best we could do for a temporary sojourn in NY to clear up some of the incomprehension as to the publishing situation, the mangling of that 1948 mss, and so on.  The sooner we are able to go the better once the repair work goes far enough to guarantee decent rent, as when we get out the gas bill will be helped by rental and while we are here we are, so to speak, a liability to ourselves.

Marion Sheffield’s box of second-hands arrived today, too, and she, just as you and Anne did, has gone to considerable trouble.  Everything is nicely cleaned and was beautifully packed and very sensibly chosen with a limited selection.  The clothes are not very warm, but one or two may be with a coat the further money will I hope NOW allow me to have the coat suit sent nearly three years—or about three years ago altered.  I think every one of our old friends who know anything whatever of our plight have been good and generous according to the extent of their resources; and we are really much moved by these things.  I begin to wonder again how we can ever make it plain that we are touched and yet not embarrass everybody and ourselves.  As I say, we have our books to offer if we are allowed to.  It is cruel to deny us the one reason for being that we feel justifies us in accepting help—so for publishers we do “pray”.

Jack is feeling some better tonight after his day mostly in bed.  But of course there are many uncertainties yet, and his books have got to be re-stressed somehow to same him and give him heart again to struggle there after his eight years of struggle and hardship and self-immolation here.

Your very loving and positively weepy with sentiment Evelyn for all of us
Evelyn

When the time comes to arrange for our passage we do so hope to avoid what I call dickerings and dockerings and just go—pronto in good spirits and ready to make any return we can to those who are being so good—you first.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 27, 1952

Darling Maggie,

You will have got Evelyn’s last letter, – and this is to add my thanks to hers.  I cannot tell you how grateful we are.  I do tell you, – but feel the best way of showing gratitude for your year’s self-denying labour, and for your own personal generosity, is for us to make it all worth while, – to you and to us.  I do intend to do this.

The money ($550, – not $500 as you had said in your letter) is here, and is now in my bank.  Bless you a million times.

It may be difficult, from your end, to realise the causes of delay on ours, – but such delay as there may be is quite unavoidable.  It results from the necessity of paying off a minimum of debts here (which I can now do) and from the necessity of getting the flat in a minimum lettable condition (which I can now also do), – and using the flat as an additional lever with the consul in applying for a fresh visa.

I take it, from your previous letter, that enough money (earmarked for transport) remains in the Fund to cover our boat and rail fares, – and also that it will be possible, once our sailing-date is fixed, for the boat-fares to be paid on our behalf as it were, to the shipping-company, by you at your end? – I suggest this, tentatively, because otherwise it would mean your sending another cheque to me here for the boat-fares.  This would be all right, and of course you would have our promise to spend it on nothing but boat-fares, – but it struck me it would be more agreeable for you vis-à-vis the subscribers to the Fund, to be able to prove to them without question that the earmarked portion had been spent only upon transport.

Once again, dearest Maggie, – I just can’t tell you how we feel about your kindness.  As I say, it’s now up to us to make it worth while.

Blessings be upon you!
Jack

* * * * *

That August, David Lawson, husband of Evelyn’s close friend Lola Ridge, wrote to Evelyn and observed that

I don’t know whether you appreciate the housing shortage that New York (and elsewhere) has been up against but it has been terrific and I have no suggestion at this time. As a land owner living off London tenants, I suppose you have lost the common touch and may have gotten away from the American way of democratic life.  I wish you both success. Regards to both, Davy

The following is Evelyn’s response to these comments.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

August 26, 1952

Please read this—I think you cant have read all my letter even if all were received.  That is why misunderstanding.

Dear Davy:

Who incited the libelling of me contained in your letter just arrived:  I call it libel to say I “own” and “apartment house” in London—what you actually wrote—NOT because it would be anything wrong or wicket if I did, but because it is completely false; and whoever put such an idea into your head must have wished to obstruct Margaret De Silver’s fine generosity in attempting to interest people who remember our books—my own and Jack’s—in contributing to an Evelyn Scott fund to finance our travel back to the USA.

I don’t own a stick or stone in London.  I WISH I did.  London is full of European and some Oriental refugees who do own homes here; and why should not I, who am British by marriage only and an American citizen yet, but as a dual national have a British-born husband.

My dear old Davy, your comment on what you seem to take for granted as affluence, was the last thing I would ever have thought would be said to me by an old friend and to a friend who is still as loyal to Lola’s memory as you are, and who, as well, in not becoming immediately indignant, now, should prove she is personally still loyal to you, pending comprehension on your part when we meet again.

It is JACK’S house nominally.  It is an old residence which he had made into flats with the last of his British Aunt Mary’s smallish bequest.  There are three flats above and this flat in the basement which was very unsatisfactory to us because we both could not repair it, and because the large brick war-shelter shelter just torn down with a presentable flat resulting!

Would you call an old house such as Cyril Jig and myself lived in on Barrow Street in 1920 an “apartment house”?  It is just the same size as to flats, though the ceilings are higher and some of the rooms are larger.  It was converted or remodelled, as we say at home, just as that Barrow Street house and the one next it were after 1914-18.  It is more conspicuous looking because it has a small garden front and back: the land on which it was built before 1914 being Church of England owned, and leased.  It is potentially pleasanter both for this reason and because the land is on a hill near Hamstead Heath and in the top floors, which have always been let as I say, there are views over London in fine days.

When Jack invested the small sum he did in this house, he had to convert it into flats to make it pay; and when the refugee tenants were accepted there was no intimation to anyone that rent would be forced to remain as when rented while costs soared.  It is an unjust ruling.  As I say, I own nothing here or anywhere as yet but I naturally am with Jack whom I love as we both love Jig, in everything that concerns him; and the results of this concern us both.  And the fact is that frozen occupancy in combination with the frozen rents, made it impossible to do the one thing we might have done to help to keep pace with costs:  furnish the fats ourselves on time-payments and then Jack re-rent them for considerably more.

As Jack and myself computed between us an “average” of our earnings on published books at the time this house was being remodelled just before the war, we felt safe in respect to it, as the rentals were to have paid a far larger part of upkeep than was ever possible, after the war began.  We thought if there were any drains on us at intervals these would not be large; and that we would be guaranteed living quarters suitable for writing on periodic visits to London, such as we had already made together.  We expected to rent this flat for several years at a time; and that Jack, after having lost our Walberswick cottage—it was sold at a loss—reinvested here again was due to two factors:  the small sum he first invested was British money and went further here, even before the war, than at home; The sum was too small to yield an income when invested.  We were already thinking prudently of the future and we had been having a terrible time in New York and its environs trying to find any place we could live in and have quiet for our books.  The original investment here was a few thousand and for that amount in New York or near New York we would have had to pay three or four times as much for a house this size.  Jack wished to have a cottage without tenants, but that we had three times hunted for in Santa Fe, and in New York and Connecticut; and we never found anything worth buying that was not exorbitant.

He stumbled on 26 Belsize Crescent by chance.  It was going cheap because largish old-fashioned single houses were then a drug on the market here.  And he was truthfully assured that if he made four flats of the three stories and basement, he could count on tenants the moment the decorator stepped out.  He borrowed to complete the conversion, paid the loan almost at once and took a mortgage out; and this twenty-year mortgage is now paid up for all but six years.  Naturally we don’t want to be left with nothing to show for the worst years of our lives economically.  There have been many occasions when London has been as cruel to myself and Jack and Cercadinho was to myself Cyril and Jig.  We have barely kept afloat.  We have been too poor to see anyone—or rather as soon as rumours of our acute poverty reached the outer world those cads who in large part comprise aforesaid world, began to leave us strictly alone.  We have been almost without clothes, for long periods without teeth, and have had no smallest diversion of any sort—not even walks because clothes were lacking, the war Government confiscated the metal bars on our basement window and thieves entered here more than once.

It is labour extremism that makes the most mischief here.  We believe in private ownership and especially in private property.  And if you will please reflect my dear Davy, you will realize that most of your own and Lola’s friends must have shared this view as a number either owned homes then or since, and abhorred that trespassing of which we are victims, here, with an abhorrence as great as ours.

That we believed in private property should have been evident from our experiences in Brazil, where Cyril tried to acquire our fifteen-hundred acres permanently, though my illness made the hard life impossible for both us and Jig.  Again there was the Scottage in Bermuda, which Swinburne Hale gave Cyril and me outright, but which the Garlands saw fit to take back because Swinburne’s health broke down before he died and Marie appears to have taken a ruthless view of everything and everybody he ever liked.  Then there was Cyril’s house which he owned in Santa Fe and to which Phyllis contributed a little money and I also contributed thirteen-hundred as a future investment for Jig to whom I hoped it would be bequeathed.  Then came Walberswick, and crises which obliged me to return home, and decided Jack he would sell it as we could not endure separation.  And now there is 26 Belsize Crescent.  So that we struggle for a home of our own that, also, may some day mean something to Jig and Pavla and our affection for them and their children, should not surprise anyone, or provoke bitter remarks.  I have FOUR little grandchildren, Davy.  Surely you do not condemn me, as Communists undoubtedly would, for hoping to do something to SAVE THEM from penury and that abominable slaver to State into which “Socialism”, applied in a dictator world, easily develops because of a fallacious implicit assumption that those who control States must be individually “better” than Capitalists!—which they are NOT.  Socialism is absolute political power and we know it living through some isolated socialist measures are good.

You know we value your friendship, Davy, or I wouldn’t give pages to re-explaining about the house.  Don’t insult us, for both our sakes.

* * * * *

To Charles Chaplin

September 23, 1952

Mr Charles Chaplin
Savoy Hotel
London

1952—November.  Jack telegraphed an offer of our flat to the Savoy the day after they landed.  It was delivered within an hour and his secretary phoned at once to say “nuttin’ doin’” as to flats.  Shabby remembering Cyril  Evelyn Scott

Dear Mr Chaplin:

Your secretary, with a promptitude in every sense considerate, has just telephoned that the telegraphed offer of the flat myself and my husband are trying to rent speedily in order to complete arrangements to return home to the USA, was not apropos.  However, I think some explanation as to why the appeal to you and Mrs Chaplin was made, is due; as I, also, requested your secretary to be good enough to say that should you hear of anyone who is an American and in need of a flat of fair dimensions, we will appreciate the mention of this one as availableI think she was probably—your nice secretary—somewhat taken aback when I said to her that the renting of this flat is essential to financing our return; as we have been financially stranded here ever since my husband—John Metcalfe, the British novelist and short story writer—was demobilized from “RAF” service in 1946.  .  I arrived here 1944 and have never relinquished American citizenship.  But we have been doing our best to go home every year, and have encountered so much obstructionism of an “economic” sort, that our return has been cruelly postponed again and again, though I am American native of many generations and have an American son and John Metcalfe was a quota resident for 18 years.

You and Mrs Chaplin do not know me personally, but Mr Chaplin may recall his own impromptu appearance at the studio—the tiny studio on Fourteenth Street—of my first husband Mr Cyril Kay Scott, in the nineteen-twenties.  It was a delightful experience as recounted to me and our son, Creighton by Mr Scott, from whom I am divorced, but who is esteemed by both myself and Mr Metcalfe.  Waldo Frank, who is now, also generously trying to help us to re-establish ourselves again at home as authors—though we have been virtually banned since the war—had just told you of our Scott experiences in Brazil; and it was Mr Frank to whom I alluded to your secretary just now.  [Typed letter ends here]

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

 October 19, 1952

Maggie my dear Maggie:

We don’t know whether we are on the verge of the real end of this damnable exile, or are in some Gethsemane of tragedy.

Jack is writing again the plea that must seem interminable for help from somewhere—anywhere—to provide the three hundred essential to making the flat rentable enough to allow us to go home to face and solve all the vital issues that have accumulated during thirteen years—our two brief sojourns since 1941 having been such as permitted of no solutions.

The crux of our lives, like Jig’s, Pavla’s, and Cyril’s is this matter of our resumed publication.  Waldo should be able to be of genuine help in getting some action about books.  But to read the mss of more than nine-hundred pages takes time, and the one reassurance I would like now is to know he has begun—the money to make the move home possible has to come soon, for all the reasons you are now so well aware of, bless you.

These have been pretty intolerable weeks—these last.  They have added tantalization to our other miseries.  I, today, re-cleaned the woodwork in the room first renovated, when the floors were removed and the shelter; suddenly realizing it has been three months since then, and my first cleaning in preparation for new occupants, had to be repeated.

It has been a question of not even the cash to buy a tin of paint; and of course trying to keep enough for the Consular fee ready.  All the details I enumerated as yet necessary, as a preliminary to renting furnished, still are necessary.  We look to some advance rent to finish everything, even with the three hundred dollars more achieved.  But this should allow for asking what others do for furnished apartments in good condition, and will save the house until eventually it can be sold.  The essentials have to be here to rent for enough to save the house.

I will exhaust you, Maggie darling—you know it all so well.  We are trying not to despair.  We WONT despair.  But to have the solution of the problems of eight years anyhow almost ours, and then just sit waiting, is harrowing.

I feel we owe you something that not even a fortune, were it ours, could ever repay.  But poor Jack is even eager to incur an obligation—in the form of a debt and promise to pay it, rather than just collapse as we are.  I dont want him to incur any debt if there is any other way, however—more than the moral debts to you and our friends—because he works so hard and should have strains eased and not added to, if possible.

You know how we feel in loving Jig and Pavla and the four children and in being unshakable in affectionate friendship for Cyril.  And that no letter further has yet arrived from Munich is anguish, at times.  Do I feel bitter when there is prattle for the “American regard” for the “American mother”?—YES—what about this one, Evelyn Scott.

Love Maggie darling love
Evelyn

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

December 14, 1952

Darling Maggie,

I have GOT IT (visa), thank goodness!  It is a great relief, as the hold-up on the medical side was worrying in several ways.  But all’s well that. . .etc.  It arrived by registered mail yesterday morning.

I then went at once to enquire re passages and fares, to the US Lines, Cook’s, etc.  It appears that the earliest date on which there might be any accommodation within our financial compass would not be before mid-January and might be as late as early February.  This is later than we wanted, but almost everything at a reasonable price is booked up till about then;—and of course I could not make even the first gesture about it till I had got my visa. rival at the Foundation.  I shall be writing to him, of course, about this.

The tourist fare for a double cabin would be from £68 to £71 each (i.e. from $190.40 to $190.80 each, – a total of from $380.80 to $397.60 for the two of us).  There might be something slightly cheaper obtainable by waiting longer, – but hotel or lodging expenses in England meanwhile would more than negative this gain, and it will pay us to get away as soon as possible after we move out of this flat around Jan 1st.

The rail fares from London to Southampton will add a bit more, say $10 for the two of us, and there will be at least some lodging expenses in England between the time this flat is let and the time we sail.  Also some unavoidable renovation of baggage:—though I do not know how far such expenses could properly [be] regarded as “travel” or “transport” expenses to come out of the Fund.  We should also have to spend a little (as little as possible!) on small tips on the boat, and I am not sure either how far these (say a further 5 to 10 dollars) are includable.

But altogether, if possible, we should like $430 (four hundred and thirty dollars) now from the Fund.  If you could send this please the way you sent the last money so that it is immediately cashable I should be able to instruct Cook’s to clinch the earliest sailing (within the money-limit) that offers.

This $430, from the $1100, would leave $670.  I see that the return fare (valid 6 months) from New York to Los Angeles (fairly near the Foundation) is $202.43.  That is $404.86 for the two of us, apart from meals etc.  So that (subtracted from $670) would leave (again if permissible) some $260 for meals on train, for a brief stay in New York en route (for E to enquire re her novel etc) and for paper, type-ribbon etc while at the Foundation.

Darling Maggie, I cannot tell you how we both feel to you about all this.  As I said before, all we can do is to make it worth while.  I can get a job I’m quite sure, and shall then of course repay the last $250 loan for a start.  All these months the thing has persisted in appearing still too dreamlike (against reason!) but now that at last I really have my visa (my chief anxiety) I am really getting quite excited.  Bless you and bless you!  See you SOON now, I hope!

Much much love from
Jack. Evelyn adds her very much love with mine

* * * * *

Lt Commander and Mrs Saint-Pierre1

March 1, 1953

Dear Mr and Mrs Saint-Pierre:

I do not know where to put the blankets and linen until Mr Paget2 and yourselves have agreed on the inventory.  I gather he will come here when you are moved in or just before, and until we had our nice evening conversation I had not realized it unlikely that you yourselves will need to use the blankets, so I am leaving all of them—two lots, the greater portion in good condition but a few patched—on the bed in the small room.

Should you wish to use any that require dry cleaning, please ask Match and Company if it will be okay with them to deduct the expense incurred from the future rent.  Davis, the cleaner, just to the left of Belsize Circus, cleans very well and for a moderate price.

Three of the pillow tickings also look very dingy and can be cleaned by Davis for six shillings each.  And this we would have had done but that with both of us under the weather we were using all the pillows until today.

Our cash shortage—temporary we hope—obliges me to leave this to you on the same basis, in the belief that it will be alright to charge up these comparatively small sums to rental to be deducted at the appropriate time.  We are both very sorry to have to request anything that may seem a bother.

Three soiled pillowslips, one bath towel and two or three kitchen towels, as well, have not been washed, and perhaps you will be good enough to let Mr Marsh know that I have neither time to wash them nor any way of sending them to be laundered with no one in the flat yet.

These are the most troubling last-minute items.  I really don’t know how it is managed as to linen when moves are in process and one has to use a little for the most make-shift final night.

Should you come in briefly during the next few days, please don’t be unduly perturbed if all the discards of the move—empty paint tins, discarded clothing, etc—have not every one been put in the dust bins.  These are at the foot of the stairs you pass as you walk along the path to the door of this flat, but the trash collection is usually on Tuesdays and I daren’t fill the tins any more today as others as well as ourselves seem to have been throwing things away and some place has to be left until Tuesday, when I trust Mr Coleman, as a real favour, may come by and put the remainder of the debris in the bins.  As a rule the space for trash is adequate, but there is now and again an overflow when anyone is moving in or out.

I don’t know whether “hints” on the housework will sound like those of the Suffolk landlady who awed me with superfluous “directions” years ago, but give you some anyhow to be followed or not as you incline.

Unless you already have experience with painted concrete floors, you will not know that the red-painted floors in two of the rooms and the toilet cannot be washed, but are easily freshened with “Cardinal Polish”, which can be bought at almost any hardware store, some groceries, and at the tobacconists adjacent to Meade’s green grocery to the left of the first turning at the bottom of Belsize Crescent.  These shops can also be reached by going down the “snicket” behind the house and turning right at bottom.

When dust accumulates along the tops of wainscots it is better, I find, to brush it off with a small dry brush, as you then don’t have to be so careful about the tinted walls, or, for that matter, the wall paper.  I use a damp cloth on the painted wainscots just occasionally, and in the first bed-room at the front just on the painted wood.  The one drawback of “Cardinal Polish” is that when it gets on paint or walls it is hard to get off—ditto as to hands and clothes.  But though it can be smeared when fresh, once it hardens—say an hour after it is used—it will not come off further as far as I know.

There is a good brush for cleaning radiators that was not put on the inventory, ad it was bought to re-paint them and by the time Mr Paget and I got to the kitchen cupboards I was too all-in to explain or say whether it should or shouldn’t be listed.  But I now point it out because of the convenient shape and handle.  It cost something but does not need to be replaced if it wears out.  It is in the bottom left kitchen cupboard with the scouring brushes—also not new, and not itemized or mentioned.  It doesn’t matter about these things except as they may help.

If the two oldest frying-pans in front kitchen cupboard are too much in the way and you wish to discard them, you are free to do so with the proviso that Match is informed either now or when you leave.  I think the inventory is probably of mutual benefit but being still ill the day it was made I almost gave up.

There are some floor cloths—two—one unused and one used but still good and when in use these can be dried on the rod on the under-end of the kitchen table nearest the stove.

The furniture and the wooden floors have all been treated with o’cedar and this had been satisfactory to us as it keeps down dust.  This naturally is for you to decide—I just hope to be helpful, for we are much indebted to you in respect to the storing of the pictures on the top shelf of the cupboard (or wherever you like).

There are a number of small photographs framed and unframed with these, and some small hooks.  These did not go on the inventory because we had hoped to pack them and had no room when the baggage was filled.  We do feel apologetic, and I suppose whenever you leave Match should know of the extra photographs and a few books having been put with the other things, though I DON’T MEAN re-do inventory.

The Gas Company’s phone is Hamstead 1133 for most calls, but on Sundays, holidays and other times of emergency the Gas Company can also be reached at Willesden 1272, their emergency phone.

The best of good wishes to you both again.  We think we are fortunate in having found such nice tenants for the flat, and we do implore the gods to permit it to be a satisfactory habitat for yourselves and the dogs, too.  Thank you again for allowing the personal articles to be stored in the cupboard.

1 The Saint Pierres rented the flat that had been occupied by Jack and Evelyn.

2 Mr Paget worked for Match and Company, the agents handling the letting of 26 Belsize Crescent.

* * * * *

This letter documents Jack and Evelyn’s final departure from Number 26.  Not everything went according to plan. . . .

 

39. The Evelyn Scott Fund

In 1951 Margaret DeSilver, a wealthy and well-connected Manhattan socialite and a loyal friend of both Jack and Evelyn, decided to create a fund to clear their debts (the next chapter will include more information about these)  and bring them back to the United States. Evelyn welcomed this initiative, but she insisted on it being on her own terms.  These included, but were not limited to, the publication of two novels on which she was then working but which were never published:  Escape from Living and Before Cock Crow.  She was also determined (or maybe it was because of her increasingly obvious self-obsession) that potential donors were made aware of her difficulties in becoming united with her son and his family.

Evelyn also makes constant reference to a “precis” which was briefly referred to in my previous post (No 38).  This 74-page single-spaced document, headed “a precis of events indicative of libel”, conflated incidents in Evelyn’s life during the 1930s and 40s with her inability to restore contact with Jigg and his family.  It was her wish that this be circulated to potential donors who would, she assumed, would have a better understanding of her situation and would therefore be more likely to  contribute to the Fund.

Many of Evelyn’s letters are to literary figures with whom Evelyn had had relationships:  Waldo Frank was a novelist and early member of the Communist Part with whom Evelyn had an affair during the 1920s;  Allen Tate was a poet and essayist and a professor at Princeton University;  William Carlos Williams was a poet and doctor with whom Evelyn had had an affair during the 1920s.  These letters are lengthy and sometimes verging on the incoherent, and I have heavily edited them to improve readability.  What remains, I hope, gives an insight into the chaotic thought processes which possessed her at the time.

(Sadly, Margaret DeSilver’s original letter, which prompted the replies below, has not survived.)

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Truro, Massachusetts
July 10, [1951]

Dear Margaret,

What a damn shame about Evelyn!  Of course, your idea is excellent. I’ll be glad to lend my name and help a little—how much depends on my own finances measured by my many great responsibilities. I should think the signers of the letter should include a number of our outstanding novelists who most admire E’s work—such as Dos Passos and Faulkner; and a few more critics—for instance Van Wyck Brooks and Lewis Mumford. I really don’t understand E’s utter neglect!  She is certainly one of the important American novelists of our generation!

When are you coming to the Cape? Do phone us and come and see us.

Always (hurriedly),
Waldo [Frank]

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

[Rutherford, New Jersey]
August 6, 1951

My dear Margaret DeSilver:

I shall be glad to read at any benefit you plan for Evelyn Scott, but I do not want my name used on your letter head.  Under such circumstances you may not want me to participate in the effort at all but it is all I am willing to do.

Sincerely yours,
William Carlos Williams

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Princeton, New Jersey
August 7, 1951

 Dear Mrs DeSilver

I returned only last night from the Middle East to find your disturbing letter about Evelyn Scott.  You may certainly use my name in a campaign for her relief. I will try tomorrow to see the Secretary of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.1  If anything can be done there, it will be done at once.  I am at a loss to think of any other source of immediate relief, but I am sure that, given a little time, we can rally people to the support of the campaign. I will write to you again in the next day or two.

 Yours sincerely,
Allen Tate

1 This Institute (now the American Academy of Arts and Letters) was modelled on the Academie Française and included in its membership a large number of authors and critics. The Institute awarded grants to worthy individuals on the recommendation of its members.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

26 Belsize Crescent
August 8, 1951

My Dear Maggie

I can’t tell you how much I thank you for your letter—enclosing check for $100 and how grateful we both are.  It really just about saves our lives.  And I’m the more appreciative since I do realise that you have many many calls upon your native generosity,-and many problems of your own.

I do think that, if you are so kind and unselfish in time, labour, and some incidental vexation (probably) as to undertake the organisation of an Evelyn Scott Fund, as you suggest might be possible, it would be a splendid thing.  I believe that Evelyn is of the same opinion, – providing, of course, that any funds resulting were not regarded as implying a cessation to writing, but rather as a help to further writing.  We know of course that there is no doubt about your regarding it in this manner, but a few others possibly might misconceive the object of such a Fund.  However, a suitable wording of the appeal would be adequate protection against this, I should say.  In any case we could certainly think of no one so fitted as yourself, in every way, to conduct the matter.  I myself, I may say right away, am unreservedly enthusiastic about the idea, and more than ever grateful to your for advancing it.  Even if the appear were only very moderately “successful” (and I should allow myself no higher hopes) it would be a godsend.

I won’t add more just now as I want to air-mail this off, – but I just can’t express my personal relief, and my gratitude to yourself.

Bless you, dear Maggie,
Jack

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Eastham, Massachusetts
August 14, 1951

Dear Evelyn:-

I’m pleased you and Jack are pleased with the idea of the Fund, but it is ticklish to keep it, as you so sensibly pointed out, from being just a substitute for real recognition and continued publication.  So later on I will write you in greater detail about so far rather vague outlines, and get your approval on any public letter before making a move.  I have had interested responses to the idea from Waldo Frank, Edmund Wilson, Lewis Gannett, Allen Tate.  I do not want to seem to be putting it up to others what I might be able to swing myself, at any risk to your basic welfare and to your proper pride.  But I feel you do also need more actual cash than I can manage.  But it must all be done JUST RIGHT.

Much love to you and thanks again for writing.  I’ll write you at greater length a little later.

Margaret

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

August 20, 1951

Margaret my dear

Not pressing for reply—not until there are some positive developments.  We hope Eastham Massachusetts is nice and you enjoy it–know your letters are forwarded

I don’t ask you yourself to do more than you have or anything that makes you shrink because you too have had your sensibilities hurt and can’t bear “foisting” yourself and must be re-assured.  But do please remember that I am a stickler for accuracy and that I cannot do other than conclude from the facts I myself know that, ever since the experiences of which I told you here, both Jig and Pavla and probably Margaret Hale Foster and Cyril, have been intimidated by rumour about me and—I think—about themselves and all my friends; and that, in consequence, they have been isolated over and over whenever they moved to any new address, and that Pitcher Lane1 has yet to prove different from Rutherford in this respect.

Mag my dear—the cable you sent has just arrived as I say on page one of my letter with this and Jack and myself are full of the utmost gratitude again and hope you will thank Allen as I will myself shortly as soon as you see him.  You are restoring my belief in humans and Allen is contributing to the revival of our optimism so genuinely that we will not forget this proof of his own sustained character of pure artist and will always remember his generosity as we do yours.  And this, of course, I will myself tell him when I write to him.

We are fed to the gills with guff so I cannot say I “pray” you may be rewarded for your goodness, but if I could “pray” in a world such as we have, I would insist Margaret De Silver among the first bloody old “God” should save.  My “blasphemies” have their justification, and are considerably less than those to which politicians are too readily inured.

 

1 At this time Evelyn was writing numerous letters to try to establish which of the three places named “Red Hook” her son and his family had moved to: she knew they lived on a road called Pitcher Lane. .

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

August 24, 1951

To be forwarded to Eastham Massachusetts.  Government gas1 took the whole of that other draught and I literally never saw a penny, once it was banked—but it isn’t Jack’s fault they are blood-suckers, he is supporting me and is in terrible difficulties YET we have to pay or be sunk

Maggie darling—

You cannot over-estimate the good it does Jack as well as myself to know you are being sustained in your generous and lovely effort to really get us home.  I can see Jack improving in spirits already and in health with this, and I have now written to Allen Tate and hope he will show you the letter, as William Rose Benet approached “The Institute for Arts and Letters” on our behalf in 1948, and he succeeded in obtaining five hundred dollars for me, which is the sole help anybody in the States has given us since years before the war, with exception of yourself and of the two or three checks Lenore has, also, sent.

When “The Institute’s” cheque arrived here with a “promissory note”, I refused to sign it, as I knew by then we could not re-pay as we had first hoped when Jack originally appealed to you.  And I was in a dither until, after an air-mail letter from me, Benet cabled that I would not be required to sign anything; adding subsequently, in his own letter that it was a formality which did not really apply to me as I am not a member.

However, the experience especially re-impressed me with the fact that we must save in the States in order to return home there, because the five hundred dollars—like most of your help—went bang into the house, almost to the final penny.  Nor was there any alternative for us.  And this five hundred will have to go into the house, too.  We will be jailed for debts otherwise so I am told.  We are in arrears with everything, including “income tax” on this property based on a theoretic “income” although we have been losing two hundred pounds a year on it during some years.

Would you be willing to become the official “Trustee” of my “Fund”?—I have suggested to Allen Tate that I hope you will because you grasp the situation completely now I think—you will respecting Jig Pavla and Cyril too when you have my letter mailed yesterday—and you and Jack can consult as to the minimum we can peg on with here once anything is accumulated.  It is the one way of getting out of reach of tyrannical extremists who—as I have often seen indicated—bitterly resent one’s normal determination to resume the life normal to one’s self and to see one’s family in person.

This is the Truth again.  We’ve loved you for so long it’s not “new” to say we do now, but you are certainly re-endearing yourself to us Maggie dear more than ever.

One of the causes of Jack’s indebtedness was the escalating bill for gas for heating the house. He was not permitted by law to raise the rent to cover these increased charges.

 

* * * * *

To Allen Tate

August 24, 1951

Dear Allen Tate:

I know Margaret De Silver will have passed on to you the burgeoning appreciation elicited by her cabled news that you are especially exerting yourself so generously on behalf of Jack and myself; and as her cable was preceded by an air mail letter in which she mentioned, as well, the generous interest in our predicament evinced, also, by Edmund Wilson, Waldo Frank and Lewis Gannett, we are cheered, indeed.

Margaret De Silver has proved she is the friend in a million every human being would most like to have.  And Lenore Marshall, too, has twice helped in our rescue from imminent eviction from this house and a literal threat of starvation; and Dr May Mayers of New York, though unable to do anything financially, has shown a concern for our re-establishment as authors which is indisputably genuine.

I hope Margaret will accept the trusteeship of any funds accumulated toward our return, sending on whenever available just enough for us to peg along on here.

Jack and I are so grateful to you and to all our genuine friends.  Most most sincerely

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

August 25, 1951

Maggie darling—

Would you be willing to become the “trustee” of any fund accumulated in the bank there for our return?  I hope so because your grasp of our financial plight is I think complete like Jig’s when here, and your grasp of our situation will probably be even better when you have the letter respecting Jig Cyril and Pavla which I mailed to you day before yesterday, and which had to do explicitly with badgerings endured in the South by everybody not moronic.

We are both so grateful—I don’t want to tire you with reiterating it, but it gives us a fresh sense of moving toward the end, and not just stagnating in poverty.

I am more than obliged to Waldo for offering to draw up a letter to be circulated on our behalf—on mine especially as an American but Jack should be included as artist and as the quota resident he was for so many years.  And to re-assure those whom gossip may have boggled as to my standing the cable sent Allen was signed with my Passport Signature in full—Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe—and the American Embassy clerk has seen my birth certificate with my baptismal name of Elsie on it and the names of both my parents in full and my place of birth and affidavits as to my identity, some still such as can be checked on, though the wife of the doctor who attended my mother is one and she has, since, died.

I will be very appreciative if you will yourself read Waldo’s draught of a letter and will let me see a copy.  I thought that letter circulated about Patchen1 was not good—and sometimes people with the best intentions don’t realize possible angles of the impression likely to be created by the manner of presentation.  I would like to be assured that by no possibility can anything said on my behalf reflect on Jack Jig Pavla or Cyril.  Jack has supported me here at some sacrifice to himself and Jig and Pavla have done no more because they just couldn’t, though Jig’s visit proves his real concern and we know Cyril’s character so well we have never doubted he, too, would have assisted our return had not conditions there been made as hard for him as ours for us here.

We always love you but you endear yourself again

1 Margaret DeSilver had suggested a funding letter based on that of a similar fundraising campaign for Kenneth Patchen, an American writer who became poverty-stricken due to a spinal injury.

* * * * *

To Allen Tate

August 25, 1951

Dear Allen Tate—

Margaret has proven she is the friend-in-a-million every human and especially every creative human, would like.  And as she writes Jack and myself that Waldo Frank, Lewis Gannett, and Edmund Wilson have, also, generously offered to do anything they can toward our return to the States, I think it likely she has by this recounted to you the hellish conditions which have kept us as we are yet; though we did have one bit of help—good in intention—in nineteen-forty-eight, when the late William Rose Benet, on his own initiative, obtained five hundred dollars for us from “The Institute” as a gift.

It was, however, immediately swallowed by this house, and the truth is that neither Jack nor I had the use of more than a few pounds of the draught once it was cashed:  my reason for suggesting to Margaret that it would be better if possible to accumulate something in a bank in New York which would finance our return and our sojourn there pending the full solution of our problems; which, like those of Creighton Scott, my, son, by my first marriage to Cyril Kay-Scott, can—like his father’s—only be really solved with re-establishment in the arts.

Margaret De Silver, however, has, also, at times, come to the rescue in assisting us to just peg along when eviction was staring us in the face.

Again our gratitude to you personally, our cordial good wishes to the Tate family, our genuine thanks to the “Committee” should it decide to supply any further aid.

Most most sincerely yours

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Princeton, New Jersey
August 28, 1951

1952—What about John Metcalfe’s art—he is British born

Dear Evelyn:

I am of course glad to get your letter but distressed by the news it brings.

I am sure that Mrs DeSilver will succeed in getting up a fund to bring you back to this country, but as you know such a campaign takes time; and we are of course anxious about your immediate plight.  If any other resource suddenly appears I will take advantage of it on your behalf.  Meanwhile I am joining Mrs DeSilver’s campaign.

You are quite right about the more fundamental need of getting home where you can participate again in the literary world.  It is almost impossible to do this abroad, where one’s connections, however god, are never quite adequate.  The British publishers quite naturally feel little obligation to do well by us unless they are certain of getting a lot of money out of the connection.

I can scarcely believe that this $100.00 will go very far.  I can only hope that you can old out until more effective aid can be organized.  Please give my regards to Jack.  Caroline joins me in warm regards to you both.

Sincerely yours,
Allen Tate

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Princeton, New Jersey
August 29, 1951

Dear Mrs DeSilver:

I am at a loss to know what else to do at present, but I shall be glad to join you in any concerted effort on her behalf.  A long letter from her, received yesterday, tells a very sad tale.  I can well understand her desire to come back to this country, and I think she would be better off here.  At the same time one must remember that she has been away so long, she has not published a book here in so many years, she has been virtually forgotten:  the public and the publishers have a very short memory.  It is by no means certain that a publisher would undertake the task of rehabilitating her as a writer; and even if this could be managed, there would still be, as in England, the problem of a steady livelihood  Very few writers make a living out of their books, even if they have a best-seller or two from time to time.

Sincerely yours,
Allen Tate

* * * * *

To Allen Tate

[September 1951]

Dear Allen:

We have the utmost confidence in Margaret De Silver, and once having promised to attempt to arouse greater interest in our plight here and in the accumulation of funds to admit of our return to the States to see Creighton and his wife and children and Creighton’s father and to re-establish ourselves in our normal milieu among the literate, I know she will adhere to her word as given.  And this is as true of yourself and, I am sure, others who are our friends, we are hopeful of solutions.

I do thank you especially again and again.  And because I know the value of friendships in these days, I add to the more personal content of the communication a sort of precis of the most serious aspects of our predicament, which relate to the books we have ready to publish and sell NOW, and to possibly libellous misinterpretations of an absence from the States which has been made “economically compulsory” both by the abrupt and also compulsory stoppage of our literary earnings since 1939, and by the war against private property ownership which has been remorseless here since 1945, and has largely immolated Jack.

Margaret De Silver knows these things, but she may not yet have every detail, and as the death of my parents during the war has resulted—possibly because they were divorced and my father had re-married—in a degree of senseless mystification regarding my father’s last years and the disposition of his estate, I shall include data on Cyril’s change of name from Wellman to Scott and on the conceded legality of my continued fight to claim as an American citizen aid from American Foundations should any evince an inclination to help.

A copy of my precis, which here follows, goes to “The National Institute of Art and Letters” for the Committee, as well; as I wish no one to be in doubt as to the facts which have driven us to appeal for assistance which would have been superfluous had we been allowed to publish and sell normally during these twelve years since 1939, and Jack to maintain his house here, rent this flat, and go back with me to the States, as was our original intention.

Everything good to you and Caroline,

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Personal
September 9, 1951

Maggie darling

I sent yesterday letters of thanks to Allen Tate for his appeal to “The National Institute of Art and Letters” on my behalf, and, also, a letter to Committee who granted me the gift of a hundred dollars, but I realize you are the benign instigator of Allen’s move to assist and my gratitude and Jack’s goes to you again.

I am still awaiting Jig’s and Pavla’s further letters and some idea as to their health and whether Pitcher Lane is in one of the Red Hooks in Dutchess County—or is it Duchess?—near Rhinebeck.  I am very worried about them and wonder whether you contacted Margaret Hale Foster1.

You know our history of our poverty and the clothes!  I was not out of the house more than a few times last summer, 1950, and this year had hoped for an improvement; but my teeth are still raising hell plates won’t stay in and gag and I am as penned as ever and except for the visit to Ewell just before we saw you in June, I have not left the house, again, except during my seven weeks of dentistry, so it looks as though even that “pleasure” was taken advantage of.

So please swear for me!—even though I don’t yet know at whom to swear!  In 1949 I lost a carbon of my book of children’s verse, which, this summer, I have re-typed, so that I NOW have THREE copies.  However, today, Jack went through every book in the flat, and as I did the same yesterday, he agrees with me that these three books were swiped since May; and that they could have been swiped at no time except when I was at the dentist’s, unless a nasty electrician who was very offensive when working in the study where they were, and who boasted that he had been employed by Agatha Christie, took them in spite, because I admitted to him I had no tip for him and could not afford any.

There have been Jig’s Cyril’s Merton’s and other water-colours, the original mss of my French Revolution novel, the carbon of the children’s book, and now these three valuable and necessary books—and as all these thefts have an important bearing on our careers and restoration to publication, I call it crime.  And when Jig was here he said he had nothing—not one thing to show for the fifteen years he has given to painting or the several years in which he was writing three novels of which “Scribner’s” published one.

I think the time has come to demand Governments that do not allow scoundrels of any persuasion—call them “right” or “left”—to meddle with personal property and I know you will agree, too.

So when you are discussing me I hope more than ever you will tell people there all these things and mention Jig and Pavla, who should NOT be left at the mercy of crooked “policemen” of the sort who protect crooks and allow thefts. They had begun in Tappan. I would like to see thieves who take such things as paintings and mss electrocuted—and I am not by nature fierce.

Our love and our gratitude, for any help.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

October 11, 1951

Maggie darling

Will you be good enough to hand the letter in this envelope to Waldo or mail it to him as convenient to yourself—first reading it, as it is about the precis of events which I may one day include in a memoir of New York and of the war, as I have yet to write in the first person of the literary world.

The precis is to be regarded as AUTHOR COPYRIGHTED just in case—for I do not wish and WON’T HAVE good book material spoiled by any newspaper distortion.

We just must put an end to the idea that no body should think, and that original inferential comment on contemporary happenings has to be in those political terms extorted by military dolts.

Please go on helping where you can Maggie darling for you are one of the few good fighters I know

We love you—everything lately has been hell again, but probably bloody politics has been figuring more than ever, and what we should like would be what I call PINK CONSERVATISM— by which I mean a CHANGE better minds more intellect and MORE TRUTH, and an end to hocus-pocus fears about jobs, which just keep political scoundrels in the saddle to eternity.

Everybody should know by now that bureaucracy has victims in its own ranks and that vast numbers of unemployed can’t be afforded so it is good sense to restore competition gradually and work out the means of removing a fair number of Government employees into other local occupations, little by little.  People don’t want directing they will RAISE HELL as long as control goes on.  This Government is a combination of feeble well-meaning and brute power.  And something just MUST BE DONE with America backing.

Our own fortunes reflect what goes on publically and we should love to be SAVED AS AUTHORS and go home to the States and help to restore Jig and Cyril and other artists of high type to the ARTS

We love you for everything you do and are doing.

 * * * * *

To Waldo Frank

October 11, 1951

Sent to Mrs Margaret De Silver 130 West 12th Street, Apt G, New York City with the request to pass it on to Mr Frank.  Love to Maggie.  Please see people read precis when it gets to you don’t just glance.  Grateful  Evelyn

Dear Waldo,

Margaret De Silver has certainly proven herself again the fine friend we always knew her to be.  Jack and I are both so grateful to her for trying to get somebody interested in financing our return home, either by means of publication resumed with conditions that are a guarantee against “token” handling such as killed every possibility of sales when The Shadow of the Hawk and The Muscovites—my book and Jig’s1—were published by Scribner’s during the war.

The appreciation goes to you here unreservedly, but as we have not had the letter yet, it occurs to me you—and perhaps Margaret and Allen Tate and Edmund Wilson—may have been waiting at your end for what I referred to as a precis of events since 1939, which I propose sending in original to Margaret and in carbon to Allen to be read privately by Margaret and yourself and anyone whom any of you know who can be guaranteed to read it without political bias and to neither “hush” me up about things I object to in the current scene because these are destructive of pure art value, nor let us in for the sort of libellous misconstruction on the happenings set forth which is an invariable result of journalistic intrusion on the art world. I disapprove of cuts and won’t stand them again and am adamant against editing.  I did not want it known I had tried cutting but I did once—it is hopelessly wrong!

The precis—a carbon is to go to “The National Institute of Arts and Letters” too —the precis, as I have been going over the material of the mangled preface and elaborating it, seems to be to be that of a potential further volume of memoirs to be written in the end about the art careers of the Scott-Metcalfes and their friends and acquaintances in the art world, and so I also wish to have the content accepted as already copyrighted by Evelyn Scott and NOT for the public prints until the time arrives to re-write it at leisure and incorporate it with experiences which long antedated the war, here covered and including Britain but unconnected with any damn “war secrets” as I know nothing of them, thought I was with Jack during all his 1939-46 service with the “RAF”, in Canada and here, and wasn’t in Scotland where he was the first year because I was economically trapped as a “neutral” in New York and he couldn’t send me any money.  This precis will be ready in two or three weeks but meanwhile we are pretty desperate again.  So please please pester anyone you can—I think Allen could show my precis to Mr Epstein as I have “altercated” with him about art. Anyhow we won’t despair.

1Jig’s only novel, The Muscovites, was published in 1941.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

Eastham, Massachusetts
October 12, 1951

Dear Evelyn and Jack:

My “Evelyn Scott Fund” is turning out to be far more complicated that I realized.  First of all, to have it NOT have a PUBLIC and OFFICIAL look involves a good deal of very delicate planning.  Waldo has been most fine and generous about ideas and suggestions, and one was that each of the four persons whom I first approached and who responded warmly and eagerly, make up a list of people to whom each of them might write a personal letter.  This will take time, as these people are all busy people and also because it is very difficult for any one person, judging by my own experience, to think up a likely list of people who have not already been appealed to for this that and the other project many times over.  Secondly, I myself feel that coming to the States would be an impossibly large and expensive undertaking unless Jack FIRST had a job lined up here, and unless you sold your Hampstead house, or leased for a long term.  Living here may not involve quite as much red tape as England, but it is actually more expensive, as to rent, food and clothing (partly, of course, because we do not have any regulations).  Then, too, the publishing business here is even more cautious and wary than in England, in spite of the fact that we do not have your crippling paper shortage.  Instead, we have inflation, which makes everything very expensive.  Also I would say that the mood of America is at the moment far from adventurous, intellectually speaking.  In plain language, dear people, I think when you get here you are going to be as angry and troubled about conditions in general as you are in England, and I am afraid the struggle to heat will be about the same.  On the other hand, the market is certainly here, and also family and friends.  That I know is your crucial consideration.  But I just feel the raising of enough money to get you here and launch you, so to speak, is going to be difficult and slow.

Later  Waldo corrects this somewhat by saying he had in mind a form letter that would not look like a form letter, which each of us would sign and send off to a small list of prospects.  Or else that a list could be bought or borrowed, such as the Patchen list, but still signed individually.  Well, we will try to work out some sound and respectable method.  In the meantime, much love—

Maggie DeS

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

October 16, 1951: Letter from Maggie re ES Fund, – not altogether satisfactory

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Truro, Massachusetts
October 29, 1951

Dear Margaret

Herewith Jack’s letter, and a rough draft of the Fund letter, for which you asked me.  I have no doubt it can be improved.  I suggest that you and Lewis Gannett whip it into shape—or discard it altogether if you think proper  You see, I have stressed E’s need to get home. This necessitated focussing on her alone; one can hardly appeal to Americans to help an Englishman get away from home.  Of course, if she gets here, as Jack suggests, nothing more natural than that her husband should follow her.

As usual, I have difficulty in learning exactly what E in her letter to me is talking about.  Dimly, I descry that there is a finished novel—all typed and ready to be read.  What publisher has seen it?

I’m enclosing a small check to you, which you can turn into money to send to her—from a “friend” — please don’t mention my name.  Perhaps it will help pay a gas bill or something.  It’s not much but it’s really more than I can afford at present.  I hate to think of Evelyn worried in that dark enveloping London winter.  If we get her out of this, she may write the best book of her life.

Waldo Frank

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

130 West 12th Street, NYC
[November 1951]

Dear Evelyn and Jack:-

I enclose a copy of an appeal letter drafted by Waldo Frank.  Will you let me know what you think of it?  If you approve of it, I shall try to get in touch with Julien Cornell,1 who engineered the Kenneth Patchen Fund, to see if he will let me use that list.  If he will, I’ll undertake to weed it out and to plan to whom the three or four people who helped me start this project will each write or rather sign this letter.

Winter is here.  I expect you folks are pleased with the Conservative victory.  Well, Winnie is a character and may get more generous cooperation from those in power in this country, which would be a blessing.

Much love to you both—
Maggie DeS

American lawyer and pacifist who refused to serve in the military during World War II

* * * * *

Evelyn Scott comments on Waldo Frank draft letter

Hotel Continental
Bogotá, Columbia
Waldo Frank
Truro, Mass

[November 1951]

See final page of this and precis sent with more details later on.  Please Waldo use the facts—they are EXACT Evelyn

The purpose of this letter is to win your interest in the plight of Evelyn Scott,—one of the small company of truly distinguished writers of our time.  During the 20s and 30s, Evelyn Scott’s novels were widely known and greatly admired, although their uncompromising character kept them (with one or two exceptions) from the best-seller lists.  Their fate was that of so many important books within a few years of publication:  they went out of print.  Most good writers circumvent this common event by publishing new books—or by dying, in which the date of the “rediscovery” of their work becomes unimportant to them.

I have visited England many times on my American Passport— British by marriage, but chose to retain citizenship as native-born in 1930.  Stop this token discretion!

Miss Scott, having married the English novelist John Metcalfe in 1930, he was a quota resident US & then moved to England during the last War.  this about “last war” and second marriage ambiguous, married twice, second 1939—“RAF” service brought us here 1943-44 I travelled British as an “RAF” wife—passport resigned on landing—families should NOT be separated by fools, is Evelyn Scott’s opinion.  The unfortunate effect of this was to put her out of touch with American publishers.  She feels strongly—we believe correctly—that if she could return to her own country with second husband, she could place her new work and resume her position as a producing American novelist. why the hell should it!  But penury keeps her in England, and both published in USA as before 1937 would end her worst penury and his he has books to publish 

We do not ask for charity for Evelyn Scott (she would probably be too proud to take it).  We wish to raise a Fund of money which will enable her to come home and to find living and working and publishing conditions at home.

Please bear in mind that Evelyn Scott’s situation is not intrinsically rare.  What would have become of Henry James, after his early successes, without a private income?  And what did become of Herman Melville, when his books stopped selling?  Evelyn Scott’s need to get home is, we are convinced, the intuition bleak eventual need for justice of a creative artist who—if again in touch with the milieu of her work—should have good years of work before her.  In a sense, both psychologically and economically, she and John Metcalfe are is “marooned” in the unsustaining world of post-War England, which has yet to be culturally restored

We in the US today, who are concerned with the cultural health of our country surely should feel that our good fortune places many responsibilities upon us.  The practical hand held out at this hour to Evelyn Scott, in order to help her return home would hearten her and would give a new hold on life and work to a significant American artist.

Please press for our resumed publication—the antidote for “charity” is to SELL US—they can sell us if politics can be made to stand aside—and give art a chance.

Thanks for letting me see the rough draft of your letter. 1942—which began the near-debacle of onslaughts—read precis—long and short when these arrive.

WBBM_20180722_0002.jpg
Scanned photocopy of first page of Evelyn’s annotations to Waldo Frank draft appeal letter.

* * * * *


From John Metcalfe’s diary:November 5, 1951: Letter from Maggie enclosing $25.
November 8, 1951: Letter from Maggie enclosing draft letter re fund by Waldo Frank

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

November 12, 1951

Maggie darling

The check or cheque for twenty-five dollars adds to the sum of gratitude both to yourself and the donor, who probably thought I might be embarrassed should I be told who he or she was—so do please, you think them for me in all sincerity.  And as we thank whoever gave it we thank you again even more.  I don’t see how anyone could have been a better friend to us both than you have, and while it is difficult to receive money at times it is very difficult to ask for it also as I KNOW—so bless you.  In the long precis of events, as I call it, which I shall soon complete and is in sum as regards legalities and war conflicts,  I have mentioned the possibility of including the material in a future autobiography which will be my own entirely in respect to literary struggles.  And whenever I do that book everybody who has given or will give anything toward this fund which we hope book publication will make superfluous in the end, will have the TRUTHFUL PICTURE of the situation of the emotions of Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe both as she sees them.  Not everybody will be fatuously “complimented” but I think most of them will be “able to take it” if they really like our books and the sort of candours that pervade my own writing.  It is the one way I can show appreciation, and I am not ignorant of what is being done so I think the public gesture will eventually be due.

I thought Waldo’s letter well expressed and full of good intentions, but NOT SPECIFIC ENOUGH—and as I write with this to thank him too, perhaps he will grasp my explanation, which has to do with the WAR.  He mentions in it that I married Jack and was stranded in England, as if I had never been there or as if Jack was to be disassociated in going to the States and it isn’t POSSIBLE NO DO EITHER OF US WISH IT.

MUST BE EMPHASIS ON BOOKS READY FOR PUBLICATION NOW EMPHASIS MUST BE ON THAT FIRST—why NOT charity  Everything public except libel stemming from “ghost” passages in Life Is Too Short—consult Jig and Pavla or Cyril and Pavla as Cyril himself delay here.

Dear Maggie—The front page and the above should be the FACTS PUBLIC NOW WHEN APPEALING FOR HELP FOR US I THINK—it is much more interesting as the Truth than generalized as Waldo had it though his belief in me is appreciated.  It must also be KNOWN that Jack and myself return together and have NO INTENTION of parting and that the fact that he was British-born and still a British subject though an American quota resident has been “used against” him and me should at least be implied I think.  You will grasp why when you read the precis.

WE STAND FOR PURE ART DETACHED FROM POLITICS AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, but beside all the general handicaps which now afflict pure artists, we are a SPECIFIC INSTANCE OF WAR ABUSES.  It will I consider be a more effective appeal if the FACTS IN THIS LETTER ARE PUBLICIZED FREELY.

But my problem is about the libel.  I want that combated and will go on fighting it where I can.  That is why I document as reference Common Law Marriage and Divorce, for these involve the real legality of Scott as our name Jig’s name Pavla’s name the names of Denise Fredrick Mathew and Julia, and actually, Jack and I were married as William John Metcalfe and Evelyn D Scott legally in Tierra Amarillo in 1930 when I elected to retain my citizenship.

Tell our friends we surmise his FC Wellman copyright ruse of false rumour by Pavla and Cyril too.
Love Evelyn

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Truro, Massachusetts
November 16, 1951

Dear Margaret,

The enclosed1, just received, makes it clear, I’m afraid, how hard it is going to be to help Evelyn.  I don’t know what truth there is in her charge that Cyril’s book was tampered with, but these points are clear:

1.  To put any such statement into a general letter would be libellous unless legally proved in advance, and even Cyril’s statement would not be legal proof.

2.  It is very dubious that even if the book was slanderous, this has the slightest relation with Evelyn’s present condition—the book was read by very few, and those few certainly would not on that account have “plotted” against Evelyn.

3.  To bring such matter into an appeal, in any case, would I think frighten people off, rather than make them open their  purses.

Personally, I refuse to get embroiled in this sad personal quarrel. I found Cyril’s book disgusting, but I am certainly not ready to get involved in why it was so—and it all seems irrelevant to the simple wish of friends to get E back to the USA since she wants to come.

Do what you want about this; but if the letter is to be amended to include these “personal” matters, someone besides me—who know nothing and am in no position to sift the facts—will have to do it. Moreover, such an amended letter might readily be one I simply could not sign, not knowing the facts, first hand.

What think you?  Is there a “plot” or is all this Evelyn’s obsession?

Waldo

Evelyn’s revisions to his earlier draft of the appeal letter.

* * * * *

 

To Margaret DeSilver

November 18, 1951

Dear Margaret:

Waldo’s letter was generous and very good but it was so much too generalized that it conveyed a wrong impression as to why we have been stranded here so long.  And I therefore have asked Jack to bind with the precis a sort of summary more pertinent to precisely the situation ours, which, in the main, is we both consider the result of the war—after all Jack and I have been married twenty-one years and we never got stranded in Britain when conditions were those of times less ridden by politics.

Love and gratitude and hope.  We are very desperate at this moment, gas, rates, etc again.

Evelyn

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

130 West 12th Street, NYC
November 20, 1951

Dear Evelyn:-

You certainly have every right to object to the form of appeal letter presented to you and to prefer your own approach.  But as a person on the receiving end, who am on every known list, I can tell you that most of the appeals I receive go straight into the scrapbasket unopened and the art of getting letters opened by the recipient is quite a fine one.  And Brevity and Simplicity is of the essence.  So that I have to say that I could not undertake any such letter as you propose, for purely practical reasons.  Besides this, I myself feel that Cyril and Jig are not in the least concerned with this specific problem.  Jack, of course, is, and the only reason he was not brought in was that it was thought it would be easier to appeal for just one person, the American writer, and that if enough money was forthcoming of course Jack could be included in the deal.  And of course, harsh as it sounds, you are the American Novelist in this case, and not Evelyn Scott the human being.  Of course actually the two are inseparable, but artificial divisions sometimes have to be set up in the practical world.  As to the Kenneth Patchen list, my only idea was to get ahold of it or the Authors League list, and weed out likely names for each signer to send the appeal letter to, some for Waldo, some for Lewis, some for Bunny, etc, etc.  Kenneth Patchen’s virtues or Bollingen politics has nothing to do with it.  It was just my idea of a way to get ahold of some names.

So, Evelyn dear, I guess I’ll have to go back to sending you money when I can and asking other people to do so when I see them.

Love to you both—
Margaret

1952—November 24th, London.  I think Jig is concerned with every publically circulated word about his mother. Evelyn Scott

* * * * *

To Waldo Frank

December 4, 1951

Please remember we can’t wait on dickerings of foundations, and this shouldn’t be regarded as replacing anything else anybody is willing to do—we are just hanging on from week to week.

Dear Waldo:

I don’t like burdening our friends with letters, but as we are determinedly making a stand for our survival as living authors and for our living human relations, I don’t know how to avoid a correspondence relevant to sustaining us.

Perhaps Margaret has sent you by now the letter you first wrote for me with such real generosity but without, apparently, having taken stock of some aspects that might have been misinterpreted, and which I, therefore, tentatively altered, with the proviso that you see it and pass on using any part of yours before it was sent it.  Should it be that you disapprove, then probably someone else can paraphrase its content and retain those statements of fact respecting myself and Jack, which, though not many, I insist on because of the legalities involved, which are all legal legalities, documented on file and correct, but must be recognised as existent or the entire business of trying to help me will result in a humiliation which I think you yourself would not tolerate and I cannot.

Best regards

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

130 West 12th Street
[December 6, 1951]

Dear Evelyn

I have received the “precis” which I have forwarded to Jig at Red Hook, NY as you requested.  I also got your amendments to Waldo’s letter, which I will communicate with Waldo about as soon as possible. Maybe eventually we’ll get this business straightened out!

Maggie

This note on December 6th 1951—I have precise facts, irrefutable facts in respect to criminal interference received here December 8 1951

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Truro, Massachusetts
December 28, 1951

Dear Evelyn,

I have just yesterday received your letter of Dec 4.  I enclose a copy of my word to the Foundation:  good luck to it!  I should have loved to say something for Jack, but how could I conscientiously, since I have never read any of his books?

Last week M deS sent me your revised version of the letter.  I returned it, saying I had no objection but that I thought Allen T and Gannett should compare the two versions and possibly make up a third.  I entirely disagree with your notion that personal details should go into this letter.  To begin with, these matters which loom so large in your mind and heart are not known and even less cared about by practically anyone.  These controversies and data are irrelevant, and to throw them into the consciousness of persons appealed to can in my judgement only confuse and deter.  The appeal for you should be made upon clear simple cultural facts; your marriages, your relation with Cyril, the state of your teeth and even of your mss is of no importance, from the standpoint of presenting a persuasive objective picture.  Even your “insistence” that it MUST be stated that you both have books ready for publication is in my judgement an error of objective view.  If such an item had any effect at all on readers it would be to deter them from helping, for they would say—“Well then, if she has a book ready why not send it to a publisher and get an advance?”  I think dear Evelyn, you would be wiser if you simply let Margaret and her friends handle this matter as they (we) judge best.

May 1952 be good—a better one for you both.

God be with you,
ever affectionately your friend,
Waldo

* * * * *

From Margaret DeSilver

THE EVELYN SCOTT FUND
Margaret DeSilver, Treas
130 West 12th Street
New York 11, NY

[February 1952]

The purpose of this letter is to win your interest in the plight of Evelyn Scott—one of the small company of genuinely distinguished American writers of our time.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Evelyn Scott’s novels were widely known and greatly admired, although their uncompromising character kept them, with a few exceptions, off the “best seller” lists.  Their fate was that of a number of important books; within a few years of publications they were allowed to lapse from print.  This is a common calamity.  Most writers circumvent its effects by publishing new books, some, gain, die, thus rendering the date of their “rediscovery” unimportant to them.

Evelyn Scott is the wife of the English author John Metcalfe, and as a result of his “RAF” service which took them to Britain during the war, they have been stranded there ever since, and Evelyn Scott is under such economic duress that she feels strongly it is essential she return home and recover her American contacts.  She was victimized during the war, and requires practical help in a re-beginning that financially is from rock bottom.  We wish to raise a fund of money for her which will tide her over to a fresh start in her own country.  This is not proposed as a “charity” but as restitution for a form of neglect Americans cannot afford.  If offered as “charity” our aid will be spurned and rightly.  She has many books in her yet to be written.  What would have become of Henry James, after his early successes, without a private income?  What became of Melville when his books stopped selling?  That the creative suffer most in the aftermaths of wars is in the nature of things, but to save wherever we can those whose cultural outlook is unique and can never be duplicated is to the advantage of al who realize intrinsic values in art must be revived and preserved for the cultural health of the country.

Waldo Frank
Dawn Powell
Allen Tate
Lewis Gannett
John Dos Passos
Edmund Wilson

[Duplicated typed letter with signatures duplicated. The typed slip below was included with these letters:]

Recently both Miss Scott and Mr Metcalfe have been granted Six Months Fellowships at the Huntington-Hartford Foundation in Pacific Palisades, California to take effect October 1st.  Their immediate need, therefore, is for clothing, transportation and enough money to tide them over the intervening months.  Please help us.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

The Saturday Review of Literature
45 West 45th Street
New York 19, NY

February 4, 1952

Miss Margaret DeSilver
130 West 12th Street Apt 12-G
New York 11, New York

Dear Miss DeSilver:

I am heartily in sympathy with the idea of aiding Evelyn Scott in her time of trouble.  Last year I received several letters from her which distressed me.  They were not incoherent, but they betrayed what I thought was a mild, or perhaps a serious case of persecution complex.

I would be willing to sign the letter you suggest and am sending you a small check to start with.

Sincerely yours,
Harrison Smith

* * * * *

To John McGovern, Carnegie Fund

[130 West 12th Street, NYC]
[Late April 1952]

Dear Mr McGovern

I forwarded your questionnaire to Evelyn Scott in London, and she has filled it out, as you will observe, in elaborate detail.  Under the circumstances, her own troubles have naturally become something of an obsession with her, and she added to the explanation on the back of the questionnaire several pages of further notes which I am inclined to spare you but will gladly forward if you care to see them.

Of course you will in any case disregard Miss Scott’s request that you forward any possible sums through me.  Doubtless she hoped thus to facilitate the transfer, and did not understand, as I did from your letter to me, that your grant, if made, should be sent direct to her in London.

* * * * * 

To Evelyn Scott

Carnegie Fund of the Authors’ Club

May 6, 1952

Mrs Evelyn Scott
26 Belsize Crescent
London WW2 [sic]

Dear Mrs Scott:

Inclosed is cheque to your order for $500.00.

The trustees wish you to be informed that this Fund is not part of any group.  It is an independent Fund set up to relieve temporarily competent and experienced authors who are in emergency distress.

This cheque to you is greater than I had thought the trustees would approve since it is about 10% of the entire annual income of the Fund.

The grants usually run from $100 to $250.00.

Please sign and return the inclosed receipt.

Yours cordially,
John T McGovern
Chairman

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

June 3, 1952: Letter from Maggie to say Fund established and most of the money in.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

215 East 18th Street
January 26, 1953

Dear Mrs DeSilver

In the process of distributing to some of my friends the letters you sent me re Evelyn Scott’s fund, I somehow slipped up on making my own contribution—small as it is.  You will find ck for $25.00 which I hope will help a wee bit, added to what you now have.  I wish I could make it larger.

Unfortunately, the letters I sent out met with no response.  It is too bad.

You sure are a good Samaritan to have made it possible for Evelyn and Jack to return to their family here.  I shall see, them, of course, and if there is anything I can do to help, I shall do my best.

Sincerely yours,
[Dr] May R Mayers

* * * * *

List of Contributors to the Evelyn Scott Fund
(compiled by Margaret DeSilver)

May R Mayers, MD
John K Kutchens, Book Reviewer, New York Herald Tribune
Katherine Dunlap
Lewis Gannett
Witter Bynner
Allen Tate
William Carlos Williams (did not want name used)
Jean K Nevius
Sophie Kerr Underwood
David Davidson
A R Wylie
Henry Steele Commager
Van Wyck Brooks
Jerome Weidman
Elmer Rice
John Robert Coughlan
Max & Gladys Eastman
David & Jean Lerner
T S Matthews
Alice Port Tabor
Julian Gumperz, (Pres., Hillaire Foundation)
Irving Stone
Mrs W Murray Crane
Berry Fleming
Rita & Werner Cohn
Frances E Blum
Jane Hudson Davis
Rita Halle Kleeman
Dr Sol Wiener Ginsburg
Laura Wood Roper
Marjorie Griesser
Alfred E Cohn, MD
Vincent McHugh
Robert K Hass (Vice-President, Random House)
C Kempton (sent snide letter!!)
Inez Haynes Irwin
Harrison Smith (Saturday Review of Lit)
Louise Bogan
Luise M Sillcox (Author’s League of America)
Mrs James H Scheuer
Lewis Mumford
Lewis Galantiere
John Dos Passos
Dawn Powell
Waldo Frank
Edmund Wilson

* * * * *

Next week I will share details of the problems (and debts) associated with Jack’s ownership of his house at 26 Belsize Crescent in Hampstead, in London.